Saatchi Breaks New Tundra Spots

LOS ANGELES Please hammers, don’t hurt ’em!

Saatchi & Saatchi’s latest demonstration spots for the Toyota Tundra attempt to “up the ante” on real spectacle, said Erich Funke, agency creative director.

The nameplate’s demo ads have come under some fire of late, with skepticism from consumer bloggers and from other automakers that have challenged the authenticity of Tundra demonstrations in open forums. Even so, the agency has determined that “actual demonstration” spots are demonstrably working.

During a challenging period when sales of all Toyota’s full-size truck competitors are down from 1 percent (Dodge Ram) to 12 percent (Ford F-series) through August, the Tundra is up 58 percent to 124,000 units, per Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif.

A 30-second spot (“Wrecking Hammer”) breaking this week shows the Tundra menaced by a pair of huge I-beam hammers at a rock quarry. The truck accelerates fast enough from a full stop to escape harm, prompting the voiceover to enthuse, “Looks like man’s got a new best friend.”

The creative team “kept feeling that we’d seen a wrecking ball too often. We needed to do something that hadn’t been seen” and didn’t feel contrived or faked, Funke said.

Another demo spot, breaking in coming weeks, will show the ability of the Tundra’s chassis and towing system to handle a heavy load as it rides through a gauntlet of fan machines simulating high wind conditions. For the ad, both truck and trailer are balanced on I-beams.

All the demo ads are worked out in advance using computer-aided design programs, then tested using 8-foot scale models, Funke said.

In conversations with Anonymous Content director Andrew Douglas, the nuances of how truck movement, lens choice and camera angles would affect the drama are painstakingly mapped.

For “Wrecking Hammer,” Funke and Douglas determined that the foreshortening effect of telephoto lenses might have made the swinging hammers look further from the Tundra than they actually were. “We ended up governing each other,” said Funke, “as to how far to push it, or were we going too far in order to stay with a tight theme and preserve the proper tonality of what has worked in the campaign so far.”

Ginny Kollewe, group strategic planning director at the Torrance, Calif., agency, said the “truck buyer we are targeting is a straightforward, tell-it-like-it-is guy.”

Kollewe said that the full-size half-ton truck buyers are “pretty savvy about, and skeptical of, advertising and any trickery,” so “the advertising has to give this buyer something to chew on.”

Torrance-based Toyota Motor Sales has spent $210 million advertising the Tundra through July, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.