Toyota’s Very Strange New Cinema Ads Will Have Moviegoers Doing a Double-Take

Saatchi takes the weird route to the multiplex

Buckle up for a couple of weird-ass road trips in these Toyota cinema spots created by Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles and director Vania Heymann.

Channeling Black Mirror, Back to the Future and Groundhog Day, the idea for the creepy content came from “looking at Toyota’s tagline ‘Let’s Go Places’ and searching for a deeper meaning in it,” agency creative director Daniel Barak tells AdFreak.

First up, a Prius driver experiences a strange physical transformation every time she gets passed on the highway:

We’ve heard about fast lanes, but that was ridiculous. Guess she missed the “Temporal Rift” sign a few miles back.

“We were asked to create content that would appear before a movie,” says Barak. “So, we wanted to try and be provoking enough that you would remember it more than two hours later when you left the cinema.”

Saatchi focused on storytelling and cinematography in order to “capture the spirit of ‘Let’s Go Places’ in unexpected and unforgettable ways that aren’t possible in a traditional TV spot and also respect the moment that our audience is in,” Barak says. “I personally don’t like seeing regular ads when I’m in cinema mode, just because someone had an extra media buy.”

Indeed, the work succeeds on its own terms as creative content while wisely keeping overt branding to a minimum. It’s almost like watching imaginative short films that just happen to feature Toyota models as product placements.

Saatchi tapped Israeli director Heymann—best known for working with Bob Dylan and other A-listers on innovative music promos, and for this inventive 2016 Grammys ad—based on “his ability to bring ideas and thoughts to life in a unique way,” Barak says. “I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with him in the past when we both worked at interactive video startup Interlude [now called Eko].”

Assa Raviv’s original music really helps set the tone, as it were. The first clip’s lush score forms an aural counterpoint to the eerie goings-on.

Meanwhile, the smooth yet irritating piano/vocal stylings in the next installment amplify the unease as a Camry-driving dude realizes he’s trapped on a hellish roundabout with some freaky hitchhikers:

Damn, they (she?) stole his car! Ah well, in this campaign, it’s probably safer and saner to just take the bus.

For the fantastical premise of each spot to work properly, smart casting was absolutely essential, Barak says.

In the ad with the aging driver, the team engaged “a charming family of actresses and one additional actress for the grandma version of our hero.” The results are pretty impressive, as you do get the impression of one woman experiencing different phases of her life.

In the roundabout spot, “the ambition to tell the story of a one-woman band who manipulates time to form a real band of herself posed huge challenges,” Barak says. “We cast identical twins—Kimberly and Ashley Carvalho—and one extra that looked like them.”

At one point during that particular shoot in Miami, the crew’s aerial camera-drone crashed. Luckily, the footage survived.

You might notice that the films are titled “Story No. 1” and “Story No. 3,” even though there are just two of them. We’re told this done intentionally, to play off the reality-bending oddness of the tales. (Or else Story No. 2 took the wrong exit, veering into a dimension beyond that which is known to man.)

Full Credits for Story 1
Producer: Natan Schottenfels

Director: Vania Heymann
Cinematography: Michael Ragen
Editor: Gal Muggia
Written by: Gon Ben Ari
Original Music by: Assa Raviv
Creative director: Daniel Barak
Sound: Soundhouse. Udi Ben Ari
Title Desgin: Tal Baltuch
Post: Gravity
VFX Supervisor: Itay Schiff
Color: Sofie Borup, Company 3
Series Created by Vania Heymann & Daniel Barak
Featuring: Nicole Whitton, Mia Whitton, Ella Whitton, Beverly Loftus

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