DeGeneres Takes Toyota ‘Live to Tape’

LOS ANGELES The first “live-to-tape” commercial for a Toyota vehicle airs today on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, according to Toyota’s agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, a unit of Publicis Groupe.

DeGeneres had said on the program that she was interested in reviving the nostalgic format of live promotion: “Remember in the old days, they used to do commercials right in the show?” She joked about remembering Jack Paar, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan endorsing their favorite cigarettes. “Anyway, we thought it would be fun to bring back that old feeling of live commercials—not the cigarettes, the commercials,” she said.

In a skit-style segment suggested by the show’s staff, DeGeneres compares the features of her own program to Toyota’s Highlander Hybrid, which makes an appearance on the set. Incorporating the audience into the promo, DeGeneres compares the folding seat of the SUV to members of her audience who are seen folding the host’s laundry. Similar gags are used to highlight other Highlander features. At the end of the show, DeGeneres walks up to the SUV and parodies “car-presenting models” by crawling on top of the vehicle.

“Ellen saw an opportunity to do something fun on the show and the producers brought the idea to us,” said Emily King, associate media director at Saatchi. “We saw the benefit of something in the show with Ellen talking about the Highlander. It TiVo-proofs the show.”

The media play was arranged by Zenith Media, and the creative was worked out among Toyota’s product integration company BrandArc, Saatchi and the head writer of the show.

“We saw it as a hybrid, no pun intended, between product placement and a commercial. We got way more value out of it than a 30-second commercial,” said King, who watched the taping.

“Ellen’s comedic style and the strong bond she has with her audience made her an ideal choice for our first live commercial,” said Kim McCullough, Toyota’s corporate manager of marketing communications. She characterized it as an “entertaining way to raise awareness of the Highlander Hybrid’s key features among women and young families.”