Artists Meet Advertising In Scion’s Launch Effort

Toyota is hoping young buyers know art when they see it in Attik’s launch campaign for the new Scion youth division. They will have to make up their own minds, however, as the effort features a group of ads deliberately crafted to seem like a series of “one-offs,” each showing individual artistic expressions of the car.

One of four 30- and 15-second TV spots, which were shot in Sydney, Australia, shows two acrobats jumping from staircase to staircase as they chase the cars in a parking garage. In another spot, only parts of the cars are shown, appearing as canvases for shimmering lights. Yet another stars a humanoid robot that transforms into a car.

The spots end with line, “Scion by,” followed by the performer or artist involved, such as “Scion, by Peter, lighting designer.” The tagline is, “What moves you.”

The radio work is likewise more a series of individual ideas than a linked campaign. Five spots offer different urban voices, such as a Def Jam-type poet extemporizing on the cars.

William Travis, president of Attik in San Francisco, said the shop eschewed a creative template in order to create the sense that individual artists were bringing their unique visions to Scion’s two models. “It’s a reflection of individuality; it’s how each of these people, in their mind’s eye, express the vehicles,” he said, adding that the lack of a uniform look allows the campaign’s creative elements to change with fashion as it expands to the rest of the country.

Spending was not disclosed, but sources estimated total adspend at $70 million. Toyota’s media agency, Publicis Groupe’s Zenith Media in New York, will also handle Scion buys.

About 60 percent of the media buy is out-of-home, according to Jim Farley, client vp of marketing.

Travis said the idea hews to the strategy the agency has promulgated from the start: Get the brand dissolved into urban culture by centering ads and events around urban artists and happenings. At the L.A. Auto show early in the year, for instance, the boxy Scion xB vehicle was “wrapped” as a canvas for graffiti artists, and Scion gave 20 artists plaster scale model xA vehicles that they modified.

The effort, which includes outdoor, print and two 60-second in-cinema spots, breaks June 9 in California and will roll out nationally in 2004 as the brand expands into new markets.

The media buy centers on cable auto-enthusiast channels and programs like Speed Channel, Hi-Rev Tuners, and Monster Garage. Also on the schedule is Comedy Central, ESPN, BET, MTV, Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.

“We’re going after opinion leaders, whether fashion, music or cars,” said Farley. “We want the conversation about Scion to the mainstream youth to happen from another young person.”

Scion began its marketing efforts in California earlier this year via a guerrilla campaign featuring posters in Spanish, Chinese and English. Copy, which included lines such as “No clone zone,” and “Bland is banned,” listed the Scion Web site, but not parent company Toyota [Adweek, April 7].

Scion is aiming for 10,000 combined unit sales for both cars this year, 60,000 next year when a third vehicle is added and 100,000 unit sales in 2005.