Toyota uses narrow focus in campaign for new MR2

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Call it a road sign in new millennium advertising.

Toyota Motor Sales USA launches a $5 million ad campaign for the 2000 MR2 Spyder roadster on the Web April 1 with a 15-second spot. Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles, created the commercial, which will appear on three male-skewed sites: USA Today, CBS Sports and Fox Sports. Banner ads will direct prospects to the sites with the :15, which also can be seen at the carmaker's dedicated youth-targeted site (isthistoyota.com).

The two-seat sports car is a niche product, with only about 5,000 units available for sale this year, said Steve Sturm, VP-marketing at Toyota.

"You can't go too broad with MR2 marketing or the car will lose its cult-like following," he said.

CABLE AND PRINT

In mid-April, the spot moves to cable TV networks, including MTV and Speedvision. It will air in the same pod with a :45 dubbed "Revolution." The longer commercial ran for four weeks last fall in Toyota's push to youth for the debut of the all-new Echo entry-level small car and redone Celica. The MR2 is the third car in the marketer's push to woo younger buyers.

Print arrives in April magazines and includes travel, active and male- and female-targeted titles, said Liz Andersen, management supervisor at Saatchi on Toyota's youth-targeted vehicle team.

"The objective of the ads is to pique your interest to get you to the Web site," she said. Isthistoyota.com offers more information about the car.

The automaker also is doing a bit of guerrilla marketing associated with the Academy Awards. Toyota is sponsoring Hollywood Stock Exchange's pre-Oscar party at the House of Blues, where press cameras could catch a parked MR2 as celebrities come and go.

In addition to the media push, Ms. Andersen said the campaign has a public relations' component starting the first week of April. She declined to reveal details.

MINUSCULE SPENDING

Toyota's MR2 ad spending is minuscule compared to its total ad spending. The marketer spent $403 million in measured media in the first nine months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The MR2 debuted in 1984, but Toyota stopped making the car in 1995.

The last model was too pricey, said Dave Power, chairman of auto consultancy J.D. Power & Associates. Sales in the two-seater car market peak and fall roughly every seven to 10 years, he said. The 1990-91 recession hurt the segment, he said, and "part of it was the cars got over-priced."

The suggested base retail price of the 2000 MR2 is $23,095. The car is "fast, nimble and affordable," Mr. Sturm said.

The car is aimed at 25- to 35-year-olds, he continued. But Toyota also expects prior MR2 owners in their late '30s and '40s to be attracted to the car.

Although MR2 will only be sold in limited numbers, the convertible can be what the industry calls a "halo" car, said Tom Shaver, a senior partner at Power.

"The MR2 can be used to create excitement about the brand [Toyota] and put more emphasis on the brand."

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