Lexus and its agency, Team One Advertising, on Sept. 15 will break a new campaign for the 1998 LS 400, the luxury automaker's top-of-the-line model.
The campaign introduces new, performance-oriented product features and tries to reposition the brand with a more emotional appeal. Lexus is perceived as distant and cold by some consumers and auto industry analysts.
The two spots were among 11 unveiled last week. The new ads comprise the car maker's biggest campaign to date. Lexus spent more than $150 million on ads in 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Two TV spots and two print ads feature a man painted head to toe to resemble the interior of the vehicle. The actor was painted by Joanne Gair, the makeup artist who painted actress Demi Moore's body for a well-known Vanity Fair cover.
The work is intended to illustrate how the LS 400 driver will be more connected to the new model, which has a louder, more powerful engine that drivers will "feel" more easily.
The theme is: "You've never felt this connected to a car." The spots retain the existing tagline, "Lexus. The relentless pursuit of perfection."
"We have an all-new car from the inside out, and we wanted to make a dramatic and dynamic statement," said Steve Sturm, corporate marketing manager for the Torrance, Calif.-based luxury division of Toyota Motor Sales.
"Lexus has been criticized at times for not having enough soul," said Scott Gilbert, co-chairman and chief executive of El Segundo, Calif.-based Team One. "The most important objective with the advertising is to try to communicate the emotional connection between a Lexus driver and his car."
Previous ads carried messages touting the safety of the brand.
Lexus was originally positioned as a luxury car, de-emphasizing performance, as opposed to its Japanese luxury competitor Infiniti. The new ads, sources said, pit Lexus more directly against BMW and Mercedes.