Toyota's Scion goes to Tribeca Film Fest

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Branded entertainment is reaching a new level as Toyota's Scion gets a featured role in a film entered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Toyota Motor Sales USA division is the presenting sponsor of the 22-minute movie "On the D.L.," a lighthearted docu-drama that follows a pair of 30-something musicians in their quest for their first drivers' licenses in their native Philadelphia. Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, of the Grammy-winning band the Roots, co-stars in the movie with DJ King Britt, formerly of Digable Planets. Scion's boxy xB, driven by Mr. Thompson, and the xA coupe with King Britt get plenty of screen time, roughly seven minutes.

"We thought it was a fun way to have our vehicles in a film without the focus on us," said Brian Bolain, national sales promotion manager of Scion. He met Mr. Britt at one of the marketer's events in Philadelphia.

He declined to reveal spending, but said it was cheaper than a typical event sponsorship. The project cost roughly $100,000, said an executive close to the situation.

Scion will start posting five-minute segments of the film about a week after its May 5 festival debut on peer-to-peer online networks such as Kaaza. The car marketer hopes visitors download the clips and pass them on to friends, true to its core viral-marketing strategy targeting younger buyers. Later in May, the clips will start to appear on, with added content such as film outtakes and interviews with the two co-stars. Mr. Bolain says he'll enter the film in other festivals. Last week it was accepted by the Los Angeles Film Festival, which starts in mid-June.

Patrick Courrielche, managing director of events and publicity outfit Inform Ventures, created and developed the project, and has handled Scion programs for over a year. He said the idea for the film blossomed from a discussion he had with his friend, King Britt, joking about making a documentary of the DJ trying to get his driver's license. It wasn't a tough sell to Scion. Inform produced the film. Andrew Gura, known for his music videos, directed.

While the automaker doesn't plan any vehicle displays at Tribeca, Mr. Courrielche said he plans "a big PR push" and both co-stars will be at the screenings May 5 and May 7.


Wes Brown, an auto analyst with consultancy Iceology, called Scion's strategy "interesting" as the marketer tries to reach 25-year-old people who are "hip, on the edge and trendy." The film tactic "is another example of the brand trying something different and unconventional in a world in which we are bombarded with ads."

Toyota launched Scion last June in California with two models and said it sold 10,898 cars in the seven months it was on sale there-a strong performance since the company's goal is to sell 70,000 to 75,000 vehicles this year. Scion went on sale in February in the nation's so-called "smile" markets, which includes New York, plus other states in the Northeast, Southeast and Southwest. Mr. Bolain said the marque is selling briskly. Toyota reported Scion sales of 11,161 units in the first quarter.

Toyota spent a mere $8 million in measured media for Scion last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Attik, San Francisco, is its agency of record, and the marketer mainly used non-traditional methods to introduce the sub-brand in California, trying a wide range of tactics including skywriting to life-size Scion sand sculptures on beaches. The marketer said those two tactics won't be part of this year's national rollout.

Scion will start selling a third model, the tC coupe, in early summer. Scion executed a guerrilla-marketing plan for the tC April 7 in Times Square, taking the unusual move of forehead ads. The marketer tapped Cunning, New York, which recruited several dozen young adults to wear temporary forehead tattoos with one of three messages: Scion, tC and $16,465-its suggested base price. (For more, see QWIKfind aap51x)

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