Saatchi ‘Re-Imagines’ Toyota Avalon

LOS ANGELES When Manhattan commuters traveling I-495 get within 800 feet of the Lincoln Tunnel today, they’ll see Drew Beam making a paint-by-numbers outline of Toyota’s Avalon into a colorful fantasy.

Over the next 15 days, the artist will vivify the outdoor exhibit, expressing the $35 million campaign’s theme of how the top-of-the-line Toyota helps drivers see life “re-imagined.”

Other billboards and print ads for the luxury car will feature other up-and-coming artists, such as Becky Blair (“Birds”), Jeff Soto (“Butterflies”), Ryan Wallace (“Waves”), Neil Fenn (“Vines”) and Andrea Cobb (“Trees”). The outdoor displays will be exchanged every two weeks, offering the impression of a rotating outdoor gallery.

Two 30-second spots for the Avalon breaking today express a “youthful boomer mind-set,” said Steve Levit, creative director at Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi inTorrance, Calif. “It’s about how the world comes to life for the driver, sets the world free.”

In “Features,” lawn flamingos come to life and crane their necks for a look. The white lines of the highway swim after the Avalon as if fish; when the car passes school children, their uniforms get bright makeovers. The final effect, highlighting rain-sensing windshield wipers, shows light pouring from streetlights becoming illuminated rain.

Levit described the narration as an “adult fairy tale” limerick: “This is it, time to play, you’re in the new Avalon on a magical day. If you want to move, if you have the need, 280 horses will take you, indeed.” The spot ends with a second voiceover: “The all new Avalon: A re-imagined car for your re-imagined life.” It ends with the “Now that’s moving forward” tag.

A second spot highlights the auto in an “urban cool” setting, said Levit, but is of a piece with the other. Awning stripes become rainbow colors, flying newspapers are transformed into origami bunnies, a yield sign turns into a kite. Rinsch of RSA directed both spots.

Levit said that while in the past the Avalon was traditional, large and comfortable, it lacked spark to attract a larger audience. “What was its raison d’etre?” asked Levit, formerly a creative director at Lexus agency Team One. “The secret is that it has a lot of what the Lexus has. It’s for people who like the feel of a sports sedan and aren’t interested in the status in the badge.”

Toyota wants to sell 85,000 units, said Steve Jett, national car advertising and event marketing manager at the Torrance-based automaker. “We’re going a little bit younger than the 50s target to broaden the market,” he said. “The communication will speak to people with health and wealth and energy who want to feel youthful.” Jett said the target consumer wants the vehicle to “affirm the zest for life.”

Jett said other “experiential” marketing would include integration into Oprah’s “Live Your Best Life” tour, and rides and drives at Starwood Resorts in Orlando, Fla., and at the Curves fitness chain.