Toyota Makes Game Out of Buying a Prius

Automaker Ties in With Hasbro's Game of Life for 'City' Car Push

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A multipronged advertising campaign to drive millennial attention to the just-released "city" version of Toyota's hybrid Prius is about fun and games -- in this case, Hasbro's Game of Life.

Saatchi & Saatchi L.A.'s campaign for the Prius C incorporates a tie-in with Hasbro's Life, as in the venerable board game that dates back to 1860, carried across multiple platforms, including a pair of TV spots debuting this month, digital programming in partnership with YouTube, Pandora, Hulu and others. Also in the works is a novel online car configurator for potential buyers, with financing advice, and plans for broad-based print and out-of -home spending.

While some may associate board games like Life with an older generation, Toyota finds it a good fit with digital-savvy millennials. "Our research showed that our target group of ages 25 to 35 views life as a game...not fun and frivolous, but purposeful," said Sara Bamossy, strategic planning director for the Saatchi office. In search of a property, Toyota and the agency approached Hasbro to license the material for the campaign. Ms. Bamossy said the agency found that many in the target demographic grew up playing the board game and that [real] life for them is a constant media stream of information, but they love social games, they might invent a game at work, and it bonds them together."

One of the 30-second spots is a cartoonish take on Life, full of bright colors and simplistic, toylike images, called "Multi-poo." It will be followed later this month by a spot called "Dolphin Tattoo." The spots will be on network TV shows "30 Rock" and "The Simpsons," among others.

The Saatchi creative "acknowledges the fact that buying a car is a big decision, as well as a new experience for many in this demographic," said Bill Fay, Toyota's group VP-marketing, in a statement. "We wanted to give our customers something entertaining, yet familiar."

The 2012 Prius C (for city) is a key component in the growing family of the Japanese company's electric/gasoline vehicles, which includes a midsize hatchback and a station wagon. The four-door hatch, introduced more than a decade ago, has accounted for more than a million unit sales in the U.S. alone, and nearly three times that many worldwide, Toyota says. The EPA rates the Prius C as achieving 53 miles per gallon on its highway cycle. According to Automotive News, more than 136,000 Prius models were sold in the U.S. in 2011.

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