Toyota’s “Webventure” public relations program, reached young adult drivers through non-traditional as well as traditional media. Its central feature was a 14-day webcast of an off-beat cross-country road trip undertaken by a team of hip, young comedians in a new Toyota MR2 Spyder two-seat roadster. The duo conducted a string of radio and TV interviews as they made their way from Los Angeles to New York, adding to the Internet audience as they progressed. The project successfully increased visits to the “isthistoyota.com” website which was designed to reach to young drivers during the launch of the MR2 Spyder.
The Toyota MR2 Spyder roadster, targeted to 18-34 year old young adult drivers, was ready for introduction in Spring 2000. It was the first time a two-seat roadster would be marketed to this audience in a medium price range.
Toyota’s marketing research indicated a need to reach this young adult audience through non-traditional media, specifically, a strong Internet presence. This marketing strategy was a “dramatic departure from what is typical in the auto industry.” Toyota set up a web site — isthistoyota.com — targeted to this audience separately from the corporate marketing website used for its other vehicles. The challenge would be in driving target consumers to this new website.
In addition to reaching a national objective, Toyota identified key markets where a concentrated promotion could result in sales gains.
A unique eight-member strategic marketing group of 25-35 year olds from diverse business units at the Toyota headquarters in California was organized and dubbed “Genesis”. They tapped into the emotions and needs of young customers using both quantitative and qualitative research (which is proprietary). Potential customers were interviewed at rock concerts, beaches, shopping malls, college campuses and pubs.
Parallel advertising, promotion and public relations campaigns were designed to appeal to the target consumer with edgy images of the MR2 Spyder and its drivers through various Internet programs.
Rowland formed a core strategic planning team consisting of key agency professionals from its consumer products, lifestyle and interactive departments, along with top-level participation from Toyota marketing and public relations.
- Integrate the MR2 Spyder and its lifestyle personification into the culture of young adult drivers.
- Extend the edgy image of the MR2 Spyder and its drivers into editorial media as well as non-traditional media.
- Drive traffic to Toyota’s “isthistoyota.com” website.
- Create “live” excitement for dealers in key markets.
A team of hip, young comedians take a cross-country road trip in a new Toyota MR2 Spyder, inviting young adults to experience their adventure through off-beat reports via national and local media interviews, radio links with the drivers, live appearances at comedy clubs and concerts en route, and a unique “web broadcast” of the entire adventure.
Budget: $250,000 total.
The activities were timed to synchronize with the marketing launch of the roadster at the same time that national advertising was hitting: April 27 – May 11, 2000.
The road trip was conducted in three stages:
- Los Angeles kick-off event at the Comedy Store
- Key Toyota Market Road Stops (Phoenix, Houston, Atlanta, Miami)
- New York Finish Line event at Caroline’s On Broadway
Each of the three stages included media interviews, live comedy events and streaming web broadcasts.
Budget constraints provided the major challenge to the program. This was an ambitious program on a modest budget.
Web broadcasting was the biggest obstacle. Existing web broadcast technology was prohibitively expensive. The Rowland Interactive department designed a unique way to combine two less expensive independent sources of digital data into one web stream. Video was sent via wireless modem, while audio was sent via digital mobile phone line. The two digital data sources were “married” in the Rowland Interactive center and streamed through the web with less than 15-second delay. This unique solution was substantially less costly than existing technology – without it, the program could not have been conducted within its budget.
Identification and training of the comedy team was also critical, as the parameters for young, edgy, hip comics included sensitivity to pushing the envelope of corporate image without crossing inappropriate lines.
The program was judged a success by Toyota because it:
- Captured the fun and spirit of traveling in the MR2 Spyder.
- Spoke to young adult interests through events, activities and an attitude that clearly link with the MR2 Spyder.
- Fourteen successive days of streaming media reports were broadcast on the Web, chronicling the “Webventure” from beginning to end.
- Over 20 local radio stations linked isthistoyota.com to their websites and encouraged listeners to “see” their DJs interview Sklar brothers interview at the Toyota site.
- During the 14-day launch event, visitors to isthistoyota.com increased fourfold (statistics are held as proprietary).
- Media coverage during all three stages exceeded expectations. Local market publicity was generated not only in the four key road markets, but also in secondary markets along the route.
- Statistically, the advertising equivalency of the publicity coverage amounted to more than $500,000 – twice the cost of the campaign.
- Appearances in the four key regional markets and two launch markets provided local Toyota dealerships the live “excitement” they desired to support their local marketing efforts.