Good advertising works. Bad advertising works. Great advertising can do great things, but fundamentally, between pretty good and pretty bad advertising there is sadly little difference.
This is our creed, which we believe to the core of our beings. Of course, that's sad, too, because it means we've squandered the prime of our lives documenting barely relevant differences in quality. On the other hand, it also explains the otherwise unexplainable.
Such as Toyota advertising.
Here is the dominant player in auto import history, prospering through more than three decades of sometimes insipid but mainly invisible advertising. The only enduring Toyota images are fast-talking sell-a-thon pitchman Squire Fridell, and a bunch of grinning nitwits in slo-mo leaps to the exclamation, "Oh, what a feeling!"
What feeling? Embarrassment, we'd guess, because the only feeling those ads left in the viewer was numbness, from the eyebrows down. Yes, Toyota advertising has been a 30-year tele-epidural. As a result, over that span in the U.S., the company sold only 400 trillion cars.
That's a tribute to Toyota's quality and value. And it's evidence that car advertising isn't what sells cars. What it does is establish brand recognition for the purpose of landing that brand on consumer short lists and generating showroom traffic. Evidently, even terrible advertising in quantity, in the service of a superior product, will do the trick.
One wonders, though, what would happen if the same superior product were given the benefit of excellent advertising. Soon we will know.
From Saatchi & Saatchi Pacific, Torrance, Calif., comes the first good campaign in the history of Toyota Motor Sales USA. Once you get past the insufferably preachy anthem spots -- and excusing the egregious grammatical misuse of "Everyday" -- much of this stuff sparkles.
Spots for the Corolla and the Sienna minivan are reminiscent of Arnold Communications' spectacular "Da da da" spot for the VW Golf, showing off product features while offering wry glimpses at, yes, everyday life. One shows a mom easily collapsing rear seats in her spacious Sienna looking for her baby's pacifier. One shows two feisty grandparents in a duel of electric Corolla windows, and the best shows two working stiffs waking from a lunch-break snooze.
"We gotta go," says one, sprawled on the far-reclining passenger seat of his buddy's Corolla.
"You're ruining my nap," says the buddy, still sacked out on the driver's side.
"You don't understand. I can't get back late."
"I do understand. We work for the same people," says the friend, as we watch them in fast motion performing a series of post-nap ablutions and speeding back to work just in time. "Technically, we're an entire minute early."
"I'll note this on my time sheet," says the passenger dryly. Then the inimitable Sly Stone begins crooning, "I . . . I . . . I . . . am everyday pe-o-ple."
This piercing little lyrical tag is already immediately synonymous with the brand, and overflowing with brand meaning. Toyota, it says, does not merely set the standard. It is the norm, the Official Car of the Silent Majority.
Warmth, copy points, humor and a psychographic bull's-eye. It will probably have