Toyota Relies On Mobile, Eschews TV For FJ Push

Toyota used Super Bowl weekend to launch two very different marketing plans for two different vehicles.

One plan is about as traditional as it gets: buying a 30-second spot in the Big Game to hit the masses with a sales pitch for its new Tundra pickup truck.

But the second plan is a bit more unconventional: a mobile phone and video effort that uses, for the first time in the U.S., a cross-platform, cross-carrier approach that combines both on- and off-deck banners, video ads and branded entertainment presented in an on-demand format. It’s designed to promote the one-year-old FJ Cruiser to the outdoor and off-road enthusiasts that constitute the brand’s core consumers.

The mobile component is a significant piece of the overall FJ campaign, which will use few and possibly no traditional TV or radio spots, per sources. Instead the campaign focuses on event marketing, print and online.

At the core of the mobile plan is a digital video documentary, a version of which was shot specifically for mobile, called Two Roads to Baja. The program chronicles the tribulations of two racing teams driving FJ Cruisers in one of the world’s most grueling off-road endurance races, the Baja 1000, which took place on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula in November 2006.

While the FJ is featured throughout the program, the story focuses on the driving teams involved, the challenges they faced and how they modified their vehicles to compete effectively in the contest. “The truck is the star of the show, but we’re not jamming the brand down [the consumers’] throats,” said Derek Handley, CEO of The Hyperfactory, a mobile marketing services shop founded in Australia six years ago. The Hyperfactory, which now has offices in New York and Los Angeles, worked with Toyota creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi, Torrance, Calif., to jointly develop the plan and bring it to the client.

The potential audience for the campaign is the 40 million cell phone users with mobile Internet access, said Handley, although only 6 million of those users have phones capable of receiving the high-speed video portions of the campaign. Users of lower-tech phones can access still photos, banners, wallpaper and ring tones. Both 2G- and 3G-enabled phones can access the program. The Web servers feeding content to users can distinguish between the two so that no phone receives content it isn’t capable of displaying.

Both banner and video ads promoting the Baja show will appear on mobile destinations such as ESPN Mobile, MobiTV, Go2 and Sprint Wireless Sports, which all have links to the microsite where the program can be accessed. Once at the site, users can select from among dozens of program clips that run anywhere from 10 seconds to two minutes.

The on-demand format lets users access the program in “snack-sized bits” from beginning to end, said Handley, “or you can jump back and forth between any point and engage any part when you feel like it.”

A number of metrics will be monitored, including which sites users visited directly before the Baja page, as well as which program clips, ring tones and wallpaper they download.

Toyota has been one of the more aggressive marketers in the mobile space to date. Last year, Toyota worked with production company Fun Little Movies to produce a made-for-mobile sitcom called The Pool, (as in car pool) that featured the 2007 Camry model. It has also previously worked with Hyperfactory on mobile campaigns in several markets in Asia.

According to Kim McCullough, corporate manager, marketing for Toyota FJ, the carmaker will be ramping up its efforts in the mobile marketing space even more. She called the new campaign a “significant milestone for Toyota as we begin to aggressively market to our customers using the power of mobile communications.”