Toyota “Ripple”

After all the automotive commercials that show cars gliding though S-curves or zooming down city streets, there’s something oddly surprising about one in which the vehicles never budge. Indeed, this spot for Toyota (via Dentsu America in New York) is more reminiscent of a film you’d see in junior-high science class than it is of the typical car commercial. If that makes it sound unglamorous and even a bit dull, it is. But the aura of science makes Toyota seem like something other than a run-of-the-mill car company, and that lends credibility to the brand’s positioning of itself here as a source of ecologically correct cars of the future. Instead of fun-loving drivers, we’re shown earnest-looking people with clipboards hovering around one of these planet-friendly prototypes. And the spot shrewdly links these futuristic cars to the already popular Prius, which (the voiceover tells us) has saved “an estimated billion gallons of gas.” When the tagline refers to “Even more solutions and the shape of things to come, from Toyota,” the line seems like an implicit allusion to the distinctive shape of the Prius. The other shrewd element here is the emphasis on water, as when we see droplets running down the hood of a Prius or when the voiceover speaks of a hydrogen-consuming car that will “emit only water.” Polls about Americans’ environmental concerns consistently show them more apt to care about water pollution than about the more cosmic (and less immediate) issue of global warming. This spot never says that buying a Toyota will help keep our water supplies pure, but it does leave a useful association in the viewers’ mind between clean water and the clean behavior of Prius and its still-to-come Toyota descendants. –Mark Dolliver