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Toyota NZ’s fantastic ad is ruined by the usual ad agency mistakes…why don’t agencies ever learn?

Toyota New Zealand have come up with a pretty cool advert for the Hilux. Have a watch:

There is a lot to love about this ad. Firstly, the premise is real…so many times I’ve been out in the bush somewhere, and come face-to-face with someone I know, and had exactly that sort of driver-door-to-driver-door conversation often for half an hour! Most memorable one being with the late great Rob Emmins in Cape York, odd considering we live 15km from each other in Melbourne and then I met him thousands of kays away in the Cape. Naturally his opener was “what the fuck are you doing here?” which was his version of a friendly greeting. Anyway, I love the random meeting, and the way many people diverse people turn up (also love the diversity, huge plus), and some of the banter. Even the nods are gold, got me nodding! I really feel this gets across the Hilux/Toyota 4WD ethos of working, functional offroad tools for everyone. Fantastic concept.

However. The ad utterly fails yet again on the usual criteria which ad people seem incapable of comprehending – safe and environmental vehicle use. Virtually every time a vehicle is moving, it’s displaying unsafe and environmetnally unsound driving techniques. Such as:

Good luck continuing your journey after a jump like that. Even if you could, that sort of speed on that track is just plain stupid unless you’re in a comp truck in an actual competition.

Ah yes, the mud splash, beloved of advertising agencies. Or, as it’s also known, the Erosion and Track Closure Maneourve. To say nothing of the all the mud being forced into joints, bearings and seals, and the risk of sliding off track.

Now we have the classic Excess Momentum shot, otherwise known as Can We Snap a CV, or Let’s Dig Big Ruts.

The only error that’s missing is the beautiful couple driving at sunset on a beach in the waves. Oh and must have the woman do nothing but gaze admiringly at her bloke.

And so it goes on.

Now why is this a problem? Am I being a boring killjoy? It’s just an ad, right? No harm done, just fun, who’d do it for real? You’re not being told to do it, are you?

Well, that’s not how the human brain works. Take a look at this:

There are company logos. There are no words. No pictures. Just the logo.

Companies pay good money to have their logos on display. Why? Because it builds a little image in your mind. You remember. You associate. You’re more likely to buy from them. Simply based on seeing the logo all the time.

The technique works, otherwise those logos wouldn’t be there. It’s the same reason tiny little nothing sexist comments are corrosive, and ‘corrosive’ is the right word, think about how rust works, slowly over time, bit by bit.

The driving behaviour shown in the ad is, inarguably, wrong. You can go assemble any number of professional 4×4 trainers, show them those clips, and not one of them will endorse what’s shown, none would train their students to drive like that. The three reasons are – track/environment damage, vehicle damage, and danger to occupants and anyone else around through excess speed. And after the chat is finished with the 4×4 trainers, show the clips to park rangers and ask their opinion. Finally, finish up by talking to mechanics about the effect on the car of that sort of driving.

Yet by showing this sort of poor driving Toyota NZ is promoting and reinforcing it. That’s unforgivable and inexcusable.

The ad concept is brilliant, and would work just as well if the driving clips used were representative of safe and enviornmentally sound offroad techniques.

There is an argument that people won’t follow the example so it doesn’t matter if it’s bad; I reject that utterly, as I’ve spent a lot of time training 4×4 novices and they have no idea what the vehicle can do, or can’t, and even if they think “maybe I won’t jump like that” they might think “well I can jump half as high”. And then you can extrapolate that to all sorts of things, for example about how public figures should behave if nobody follows the example set.

Now I’m wondering what sort of consultation with driving experts was done for this. I’m going to guess. The driving would have been done by professionals…but I find these guys are mostly pro racecar drivers with little or no 4×4 knowledge. And even if they do understand, I doubt they’re paid to voice an opinion, or be listened to. I say this with knowledege of how these things work, I’ve been one of those drivers and you’re just there to steer, reset and wait for the call to action.

I’m going to be really boring again, and call on all marketing people to please, please, for the sake of your customers, the environment, and everyone else do better than this. You’re meant to be ace creative people, so live up to your claims and deliver something that gets the message across and also promotes sustainable, safe driving behaviour.

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There is an Australian Motor Vehicle Advertising code, but this is an NZ ad so it doesn’t need to comply.


This ad breaches the following Provisions of the code in my view:

  • Unsafe driving, including reckless and menacing driving that would breach any Commonwealth law or the law of any State or Territory (the jump)
  • Deliberate and significant environmental damage, particularly in advertising for off-road vehicles (mudsplash).
  • An advertisement may legitimately depict the capabilities and performance of an off-road vehicle travelling over loose or unsealed surfaces, or uneven terrain, not forming part of a road or road related area. Such advertisements should not portray unsafe driving and vehicles must not travel at a speed which would contravene the law (the whole ad really).
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