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Overpromising, Underdelivering – New Toyota Prius Ads

January 12, 2011 Leave a comment

If you want to lead a horse to water, you should probably make sure there’s water, that is if want him to drink.

Ok, so my family has been looking, shopping, thinking about buying new cars for awhile now. Lately I’m more attuned than usual to auto marketing, particularly if they’re from brands I like. Ta-daa! It's a Prius!This morning I opened the Wall Street Journal and saw this catchy ad for the Toyota Prius.  (Saatchi LA is their lead U.S. agency.) The copy is clever – “prius is expecting” – suggesting new offering under the prius-hybrid product family. The ad integrates mobile ad fun with snaptags merchandised on a full-page print ad and, of course, drives interested readers to a website.

The timing is good too, as the Detroit Auto Show opens today. And when I dig a little deeper, I discover that Toyota intends to introduce its new Prius line-up at this event. All in, it has the hallmarks of a fully integrated marketing campaign.

Hold-off on the kudos for now. After reading this nicely done ad at my desk in my office next to my computer next to my Droid dock (with Droid in), I opt-in and decide to engage. Here’s how it went:

1. First I try the website listed in ad – the URL is toyota.com/priusfamily – that’s exactly how it is written. I go, then ding! Server not found error message. Looked like someone forgot to engage the tech guys in the campaign. Maybe it’s working by the time you see this

Prius ad promise not fulfilled.

I hate it when this happens!

post. I took a picture in case you missed it. Apparently if you add the “www”  the URL works…but www is soooo SUV and the prius is well, the future – right? It gets worse.

2. Now, www’s in hand, I’m at the website. Looks like the Toyota web frame alright, except it’s just a teaser message in the middle – only text, no real info. It reads: “Soon our family will be a whole lot bigger. Coming January 10, 2011.”  That’s today! (Full disclosure: I posted this article two days after the experience due to my own slow editing!). I double checked the calendar twice. It seems like something should be here, I mean you advertised in the Wall Street Journal nationwide…that’s big bucks. Is there news scheduled? Or is this a wait and see thing? I appreciate the pregnancy and birth metaphor, but this waiting is too much. (Cue Carly Simon) I just want an easy delivery. Sigh.

Note: I first checked the URLs listed above at 9:00 a.m. (ET); and again at 1:00 p.m.; and again at 3:00 p.m and again at 5…..nothing. zip. zilch. zippo. By 5:52 p.m. it worked. Apparently Toyota was throwing a party and forgot to invite a few people. Moving on.

3. Next, I follow the instructions in the ad. I take a picture of the snaptag, then text and email it to the two addresses listed. The hook is that I will get to “see the sonogram” presumably of a new prius in the womb. Hmmmm, sounds fun, right? So I play along, then Ding! instant response to the text with a URL: http://prius-sonogram.com. Hooray! They know I’m here! I should have just clicked on the link right then.

Prius Sonagram Snaptag

Text a photo of this snaptag to see the sonogram

But since I’m sitting at my computer with a big ole screen, I type in the URL and I get this: “please view this site using your mobile phone or check out the prius family at toyota.com.” Ugh. Apparently the baby is still in the delivery room. When I got the same link to sent back to my email address – it also told me to try it on my mobile phone. Apparenly you cannot see a sonogram on a regular computer these days.

Heads up Toyota marketers, an alternate page suitable for a regular web browser wouldn’t be that much more trouble. You could even have more creative fun with it (“baby’s first photo” or “it’s three” or “Vasectomy time!”). A simple line of code could have detected browser type and redirected as appropriate for mobile or web viewing. But noooo, this is a “mobile only” activity, because everything’s mobile or it’s 1901. Did you mean for me to see this ad while driving? (Note to self: Must get the tech folks and consumer research involved in marketing campaigns – or get better of both.)

Ok, so being the benevolent consumer that I am, I open the link on my phone. Nice picture, a sonogram for prius-triplets. Clever, but left me a wanting a little more… Really all that- for one picture?

Let me clarify one point: Overall I like the creative idea and give it an “A” for high concept. However I give it a “D,” at best, on the execution of integrated effort. Key negatives:

  • Make sure the URL works – as printed.
  • Timing matters – Synch your message platforms for delivery of your message.
  • Get the tech people on board. Seriously, is an ad successful if no one ever sees it?
  • Engagement should go beyond taking a picture and sending a text. That was boring.
  • If you go mobile, really consider having a traditional, non-mobile option. Especially if you’re in the car biz because texting and driving don’t mix, right?

Oh and congratulations on your new babies. Just because you screwed up the birth announcement, it doesn’t mean they won’t become good people.

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