Stronger Together

How do you create an ad campaign in two weeks that would normally take five months? A lot of Skype calls and joining of forces. 

April 07, 2020
'Extraordinary times' -- The marketing team set out to drop the sales focus to send a reassuring message to all those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are times something so big happens – something larger than ourselves – that it pushes us to do what may have seemed impossible just days, weeks or months ago.

If you asked the Toyota Marketing team earlier this year whether they could build and launch a brand-new ad campaign from the ground up in just two weeks’ time, they likely would have called that unthinkable.

But that’s exactly what they were challenged to do when COVID-19 drastically changed the world’s landscape.

In what felt like an instant, Toyota’s “Let’s Go Places” campaign didn’t match the needs and concerns of consumers and dealers.

“We didn’t want to be tone-deaf,” says Cynthia Brown, senior marketing manager at Toyota Motor North America.

Toyota leadership decided it was time to drop the sales message and speak directly to those affected by the coronavirus, which was everyone in some way.
 
 On the same page -- Dealers play a crucial role during the creation of a new Toyota campaign.
 

The ‘Usual’ Process

With that idea in mind, teams of people came together to do the unthinkable – create a new Toyota campaign, produce the ad and release it to the world in two weeks.

Clint Middleton, Toyota Dealer Advertising analyst, put that in perspective.

Just creating the concept behind an ad can take anywhere between two to three months, he says.
It starts with:
 
  • Partner agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi developing concepts (maybe a dozen or so)
  • Then the Marketing team thins those ideas down to a select few
  • From there, agencies create new variations of those concepts
  • Higher management weighs in with their thoughts
  • And DAC – the Dealer Advertising Committee, which is made up of representatives from each region – shares its feedback.
“There’s a lot of back and forth,” Middleton says of the process.

Once there’s a final approved concept, it’s time for production, which adds about two more months.
Leading the charge -- The new Toyota campaign shows shots of dealerships, many of which remain open in some capacity.
 

Starting Their Impossible

So how was the process different this time?

“In almost every way,” Middleton says with a laugh.

A process that on average takes five months needed to be complete in two weeks.

The key to getting that done, Middleton says, was a lot of communication and thoughtful shortcuts.

Since team members, agencies and dealers couldn’t meet in person, they turned to Skype calls.

“We had a call that was 200 (people) strong,” Middleton says.

In crunch mode and wanting to follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing, they utilized stock footage for the commercial.

And when it came to the approval of the ad, Middleton says the Legal team put in long hours to accelerate the process.

As for the dealers, both Brown and Middleton say they proved once again to be leaders during a difficult time.

“The dealers are some of the best in emergency-type situations,” Middleton says. “They know how to quickly change their strategies and connect with their communities. I was around for the financial crisis. I saw it for 9/11. I was around for the tsunami and around for the recall. Each and every one of those times, you see our dealers leading the charge. A lot of times, we learn from them about what the secret sauce is in terms of what we need to do.”

It was that locking of arms that was essential to execute the impossible.

“When there’s one coherent message going out and everyone’s behind it, it really does have a lot of success,” Middleton says.

And in the end, everyone was on the same page. Now was the time for Toyota to offer its condolences and sympathy to all those who have lost loved ones and to everyone affected by COVID-19.
 
 

The Result

“We are here for you.” Five simple words.

From Toyota leadership to team members to dealers – that was the message everyone agreed was important to send out immediately.

“These are extraordinary times, and through it all, Toyota will be here for our customers,” says Ed Laukes, group vice president of Toyota Division Marketing.

That has been the case during previous crises, and that’s the case today.

And as the Marketing team continues its work, the lessons and message behind the first phase of the “We're

Here For You” campaign will remain with them as they evolve with the current environment.

“It’s not about selling,” Laukes says. “It’s about focusing on people and that we’re stronger when we’re in something together.”



By Marjorie Owens


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