Parody Powers Toyota’s 2005 Truck Launch Ads

Toyota takes its quirky new creative sensibility and “Moving forward” tag into the ferociously competitive truck category this week with a seven-spot blitz for the model-year 2005 compact Tacoma and full-size Tundra pickups.

In the new ads, Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi in Torrance, Calif., uses sardonic humor and spoofery—the Tacoma ads parody charity appeals, anti-depressant soaps and accident-prevention PSAs. Collectively, the campaigns are backed by an estimated $100 million-plus. (Toyota spent $45 million on Tundra and about $40 million on Tacoma in 2003, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.)

“Tacoma is very important to our image and to bringing young men into the brand,” said Deborah Wahl Meyer, Toyota corporate manager of marketing communications. “We’re using it as a launch platform to develop our family of trucks and establish a truck heritage in preparation for the next-generation Tundra.”

In “Living the Dream,” a young man feels “inadequate, powerless” when pull-starting his truck’s lawnmower engine and getting passed by a moped. Once he buys a Tacoma, he’s busting through his garage door, jumping cliffs with buddies and finds the sexy girl next door at his side. The narrator declares the truck “roomier, brawnier” and “versatil-ier.”

“Adrenalitis” features a fake-disease sufferer (“Being diagnosed with low adrenaline levels was devastating,” he says). “Bed” parodies charity pleas, with a sexy young woman in safari shirt and shorts narrating the sad story of rusted, pounded “defenseless pickup-truck beds,” before showing the “revolutionary composite inner bed” that will stop “the horror.” “For less than three mocha lattes a day, you can have your own Tacoma. Stop truck-bed abuse forever,” she pleads.

In “Rail System,” a narrator bemoans the tragedy of truck spills, when “every 60 seconds, something cherished is lost” (from busted surfboards to roasted chickens).

Tundra ads feature racing bad boy Daryl Waltrip, contrasting practical uses for the truck’s new features with Waltrip’s fantasies of jumping a Tacoma with boat attached, yanking away his neighbor’s garage door to reclaim borrowed tools, and taking his father-in-law on a camping trip, trapping him between giant dueling, drooling dogs.

“When we launch a vehicle, we want to talk about the new attributes but also tie it back to how it is relevant to people’s lives,” said Harvey Marco, Saatchi executive creative director. “They say, ‘You can talk to me about al Qaeda until you’re blue in the face, but tell me about a composite bed that won’t rust or break and now you’re talking to me.’ The message this year is multilayered because there is real news. But we’re maximizing the fun.”

Tundra (up 8 percent to 83,000 units, year to date) is far behind the best-selling vehicle in America, the Ford F-150, up 11 percent to 700,000 units. Tacoma sold 119,000 trucks through September, closing in on the compact leader, the Ford Ranger, which reported sales of 127,000 units through September.

Print, outdoor and cinema ads are also part of the campaigns.