Scion Takes Road Less Traveled

NEW YORK Scion is launching vibrant TV and print ads in what is essentially an extension of last year’s “United by individuality” initiative.
 
Crafted by San Francisco-based Attik, the new “Samples” push offers a candy-colored, kinetic look at Scion’s five-door xB subcompact wagon and the tC, a two-door sports coupe that serves as a successor of sorts to Toyota’s discontinued Celica.
 
The first print ads began hitting newsstands in the January issues of music and lifestyle glossies Revolver, Death + Taxes, Juxtapoz, Play and Big Shot. As part of a media strategy that runs through March, Scion will place one of nine different executions in as many as 20 publications.
 
Attik’s effort features abstract photo treatments of the two models, including a shot of a customized pink-tinted tC that resembles an inverted bottle of Pepto-Bismol. Another ad combines strategically placed mirrors and moody lighting to create an xB that resembles a gemstone.

In order to zero in on its youthful demo, the client is snapping up late-night real estate on male-skewing cable networks like Viacom’s Comedy Central and Spike TV, as well as Adult Swim, SiTV and Fuel. Beginning this week, those five nets will carry the xB creative. Meanwhile, MTV, BET, Fuse and G4 will host spots for the tC.
 
Scion is limiting its TV run to those cable venues because that is where its adherents reside.

The spots do not bow to the conventions that have made automotive advertising an exercise in beautifully photographed generica. The tC ad manipulates images of tricked-out Scion compacts in a digital mashup of color and synthesized beats. And in lieu of an A-list celebrity touting fuel efficiency and financing, the xB creative lets the car’s toaster-oven-with-headlights aesthetic speak for itself.

“When you look at car commercials at this moment in time, it’s become obvious that everyone is trying to sell promotions and deals and so forth, and what we’re doing is trying to stay true to our brand proposition,” said Attik co-founder and creative director Simon Needham. “We want to create something different from what the rest of the industry is doing, while continuing to target people who are inspired by good creative content.”

Scion typically spends $30-40 million annually in measured media. The nameplate spent about $20 million on ads through the first 10 months of 2008, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.
 
Since its national rollout in 2004, Scion has deliberately positioned itself to appeal to the customization crowd. Rather than overdesigning its cars, Scion offers something of a blank canvas onto which consumers can project themselves. (Personalization begins at the company’s Web site, where prospective buyers can trick out their cars with LED tail lights, rear spoilers and 19-inch five-spoke rims.)

In a nod to such adaptability, vehicles shown in the latest spots were personalized by their owners, with tweaks ranging from classic applique racing stripes to full-on confectionery-style paint jobs.
 
A spot for a third Scion model, the xD hatchback, is expected to bow later this month.
 
With a base sticker price of around $18,000, Scion might position itself as a recession-buster, yet the company isn’t straying from its original brand message.
 
“A lot of people are looking at it as a great value, but we’re going to stay focused on our target audience,” Needham said. “We’re not looking to weaken our position by trying to appeal to a broader segment.”
 
In a month in which U.S. auto sales plunged 36 percent, Scion slowed significantly in December, selling 4,127 units, a drop of 54 percent versus the year-ago period. The automaker moved 1,794 xBs, a drop of 53 percent versus its December ’07 numbers, while clearing 1,348 tCs, a dip of almost 62 percent.
 
Americans drove 113,904 Scion vehicles off the lot in 2008, a drop of 12.5 percent versus the Toyota marque’s year-ago sales totals. The xB held its ground last year, as Scion shifted 45,220 vehicles, a dip of just 1.7 percent versus 2007 sales of 45,834. The tC didn’t fare as well, as sales of the two-door model declined 36 percent to 40,980.