Toyota Gets Local, Uses Geo-Targeted Snapchat Ads

The Digital Effort Comes as Part of Larger Ad Push on Camry, Corolla

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Toyota is driving "Let's Go Places" to some new digital venues that are decidedly local.

In the latest evolution of the nearly three-year-old campaign, the automaker has purchased ads on Snapchat that target Los Angeles. Videos will run inside Snapchat's localized Live Story feature, marking what Toyota says is the first time an automotive brand has utilized that local ad format. Toyota has also partnered with Google to automatically customize banner ads in 15,000 U.S. cities using an API that incorporates city-specific information into the ads.

The two geo-targeted digital executions are part of a larger national ad push Toyota is making this summer for its two top-selling cars, Camry and Corolla, that seeks to give further definition to the "Let's Go Places" tagline, which launched in late 2012.

"We thought we we could leverage [the tagline] a lot more," said Jason Schragger, chief creative officer for the Toyota account for Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, the lead agency on the campaign. "Let's Go Places" is "all about curiosity -- this wonderful invitation we could give to people to be a little more curious in life, and therefore jump in their car and explore," he said.

A new TV spot for Camry called "The Great Road" (above) shows the car leaving its driveway and zooming through scenes that include San Francisco, New Orleans and places in between. A voiceover states that "the cement of your driveway connects to the ends of the earth," adding that "it's all one road, everywhere you take it tells your story." A TV ad for Corolla is called "200 Foot Journey" and encourages viewers to pursue life "two-hundred feet at a time." The use of the "200-foot" metaphor was inspired by Jack Canfield, author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul," according to Toyota.

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The larger strategy is to hammer home "Let's Go Places" in "every piece of communication," Mr. Schragger said. "That's a story world that we can start owning," he added. "Whether it's a hyper-targeted ad that tells you there are 18 ice cream parlors around, or a TV ad that gets you off your coach to start the next chapter of your life -- wherever it is, we want to unlock the explorer in you."

For example, a localized banner ad running in Chicago for Corolla might state that "there are 22 stadiums in Chicago. Grab your coworkers and head to a game," according to a hypothetical example shared by Saatchi. The ad unit would feature a Chicago-specific background and a photo of a Corolla. The Snapchat campaign is still in development and won't begin until August 1.

The campaign comes as Camry sales have slid of late as more people buy trucks, crossovers and SUVs rather than cars, thanks in part to lower gas prices.

Sales of Camry, the nation's top-selling car, have fallen by 1.9% year-to-date through May to 178,408 vehicles, Toyota reported. But Corolla sales increased by 11.2% to 159,486.

"Gas prices are low [and] people are making their selections based on that," said Frank Gomi, product marketing manager on Toyota's sedan team. "But the midsized segment is the largest segment in the industry. So it's going to continue to be strong and we have the right [cars] for that."

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