The Lighter Side Of Lexus

Team One Ads for ’99 Models Assume Playful Tone
LOS ANGELES–Team One Advertising is rolling out one of the riskiest campaigns in its history for flagship client Lexus, employing everything from Saturday Night Live’s Mr. Bill to telepathic communication.
With sales for Toyota’s luxury car unit up 59 percent through September, executives at the El Segundo, Calif.-based agency believe the time is right to take some chances.
New strategies being employed for Lexus’ 1999 model year include loosening up the luxury nameplate’s conservative image, attracting new and younger buyers and driving home a message of high-speed performance. The TV and print campaign will be backed by roughly $100 million in media.
“We’ve never done anything like this,” said agency co-chairman and executive creative director Tom Cordner, explaining that the car maker is trying a “conquest” approach with the new campaign. “The strategy is to reach out to new buyers while keeping current owners infatuated with the brand,” he said.
Unlike previous copy-driven campaigns, Team One’s ’99 Lexus work relies heavily on image and humor to lure younger consumers.
In one TV spot, for example, the agency uses claymation character Mr. Bill to illustrate how much fun it can be to drive the GS model. As Mr. Bill gets into the car, his nemesis, Sluggo, decides to come along for the ride. Naturally, Sluggo ends up behind the wheel and Mr. Bill is soon squashed.
In another spot called “Twins,” a man sitting in a cafe is suddenly thrown all over the place as the spot cuts to shots of the sleek ES model taking hairpin turns. The payoff comes when the man’s twin arrives at the cafe. “You had to take [the scenic road] didn’t you?” the twin asks his brother.
Print ads are also heavy on image and light on copy, including one execution that features a large picture of a man with a pacifier in his mouth. “Move over. Your inner child would like to take the wheel,” notes the copy.
Team One even tinkers with Lexus’ decade-old theme, “The relentless pursuit of perfection.” At the conclusion of each TV spot, “exhilaration” appears briefly as the last word of the sentence, before being replaced by “perfection.”
“We still think [the tagline] is the epitome of the brand,” said Cordner. “But we’re trying to put it at the forefront again.” Given Lexus’ upscale brand positioning, the word “was chosen with care,” he added.
Team One creative director Steve Levit led the creative effort. Levit, who reports to Cordner, has been named co-creative director of the 200-person shop along with Josh Miller, who joined from Cliff Freeman and Partners in New York.
Lexus spent $140 million on ads last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.