Audio Spot Compared Buying Used Cars to Adopting a 'Problem' Child

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DETROIT ( -- A Toyota radio ad that compared the process of buying an uncertified used car to adopting a problem child has been pulled off the air as a result of angry listener complaints, a Toyota spokesman said.

The controversial commercial ran in Salt Lake City and Albuquerque, N.M., for about a week before it was pulled May 8.

The spokesman at Toyota Motor Sales USA said the spot was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.

The regional Toyota brand's certified-used vehicle radio spot was produced by Publicis Groupe's Saathci & Saatchi Los Angeles of Torrance, Calif. Saatchi's office did not return repeated calls for comment today. Saatchi, which retains only a few of Toyota's regional dealer ad accounts, is currently involved in a review for the Greater New York Toyota Dealers $90 million account.

The radio ad began with the lines:

What does getting a used car make you think of?
Adopting a problem child perhaps?
Maybe it's more like a leap of faith.
A scary leap of faith.

Ernie Riach, general sales manager at Karl Malone Toyota, Albuquerque, who called the ad "insensitive," said neither his store nor the other Toyota dealership in town, American Toyota, approved the radio commercial.

"Neither of us would run an ad like that," said Mr. Riach, who added he himself was adopted. The two dealerships share the same owner -- Utah Jazz team owner Larry Miller -- and talk often. Karl Malone plays for the Jazz.

"Saatchi has gotten a lot of heat over this and they should," Mr. Riach said.

Saatchi's Denver office handles the account side for the two regions where the ad ran, said a woman who answered the phone and identified herself only as Christine and said she was the office manager. She said creative for all Toyota's regions is handled in the Torrance office and referred calls there.

Five calls to three people in the Torrance office weren't returned by press time.

Online messages
Word of the ad spread quickly on a bulletin board on, a nonprofit infertility and adoption information Web site. One member said on the bulletin board that the ad helped her decide to buy American Honda Motor Co.'s Odyssey minivan instead of Toyota's Sienna.

"This ad had to go through a number of people for approval and it's amazing to me nobody said 'Wait a minute,' " said Nancy Hemenway, founder and executive director of Inciid. She said she'll try to use the radio ad as a way to help educate people about adoption.

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