Company: Toyota Motor Sales
Ad Agency: Team One
Product: Lexus Brand
Campaign: "Engineering Amazing."
What We Like: There is a swagger in the ads, and a tone and creative quality that hearkens back to when Lexus was launching as a new luxury brand in 1989 and 90. Call us car geeks, but we like the stories of how Lexus had to invent new processes, like a 3D loom to weave carbon fiber that is strong enough for its intended purpose. Innovating plastic that can be recycled infinitely sounds pretty cool, too, though we would discourage the company from using the stuff over and over again in its interiors, some of which lately seem to look like they were designed at the Igloo Cooler company. The close of one ad just released, titled "A New Era of Lexus Innovation," finishes on the track, and gives the brand a youthful energy – not unimportant since the vast majority of Lexus buyers lately also reap AARP discounts. In "Wall," a Lexus LS crashes a wall of beakers and vials each holding a different "alternative" fuel, such as bio-diesel, algae, liquid hydrogen, and so on. Lexus makes the point that its Hybrid Drive technology will optimize any fuel system on the planet, and that its technology is "future-proof." That's swagger.
What We Don't Like: Lexus has a way of making its ads sound like the brand is the last word in innovation. We guess that's what they were shooting for. It is, after all, advertising. But it's hard not to react with a bit of a jaundiced eye when we stop to consider just how pointless the hybrid system actually is in big cars like the Lexus LS. The fuel economy gain is negligible, and at a lot of extra cost. Seriously, $112,250 for the LS600h, about $45K more than an LS460? Want to impress us? Start mating your bigger vehicles to a diesel engine, which would be far more appropriate to the vehicles than hybrids. Also, you could work on the plastics aesthetics on the lower-priced Lexus models.
Strategy: Lexus has a well-known age problem. The age of its buyers has crept consistently over 60, and it muffed its cycle plans by having too many new core models come out at the same time. Some of the vehicles are long in the tooth. This campaign is filled with tech, messages about sustainability, race-track footage. We aren't saying Toyota is trying to out the brand on roller skates, but it is clearly using story-telling techniques to give fresh life to its innovations. That's a good idea, and they should keep at it.
"This isn't just a campaign, it's a statement that, for Lexus, the best is yet to come," says Dave Nordstrom, vice president of marketing for Lexus. "It's not about simply making incremental strides and improvements, but about taking giant leaps in innovation." These ads and this approach is slated to run through January, so it is a major push to super-charge the way customers think of Lexus.
Watch five of the commercials after the jump and give the campaign your own grade below.