Untraditional pitch: Scion holds media reviews

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Toyota Motor Sales USA is quietly conducting separate media planning and buying reviews for its upcoming Gen Y-targeted Scion.

Brian Bolain, national manager overseeing marketing for Scion, said the automaker began talking to shops last month and expects to tap winners in January. He declined to reveal the names of shops in the pitches, and wouldn't discuss the size of the accounts.

But Scion is expected to get $50 million in spending after the brand drives cross-country. The first two models go on sale in California in summer 2003 and Scion will expand into the Southwest and Southeast before hitting the remaining northern and Midwest states by June 2004. Earlier this year, independent Attik, San Francisco, won Scion's creative account; Dentsu's Oasis, New York, handles the online account.

ZenithOptimedia Group, which handles TV buying for the marketer's Toyota and Lexus divisions, is believed to be the front-runner for Scion's TV buying business, according to an executive close to the matter, though the agency declined to comment. Planning is still up for grabs and the marketer is looking at smaller agencies, the executive added.

Mr. Bolain said Zenith doesn't have the inside track. "Given in our minds that our placement plans will be quite different, it behooves us to explore all options," he said. In fact, non-traditional media will play a key role in an attempt to reach Scion's elusive target. Toyota started a buzz-generating campaign last summer in California for Scion, taking it to art galleries and small-venue concerts, and it is expected to try a similar marketing approach to BMW of North America's Mini Cooper launch, handled by Crispin Porter Bogusky, Miami. Mini is getting a $25 million blitz this year.

Scion models will get "spikes in traditional media" as the brand arrives in new markets, Mr. Bolain said. Scion.com already has more than 10,000 registered users.

Gen Y, or "Net Gen," as Toyota calls it, is expected to account for 25% of all new vehicle sales by 2010 and half of all new vehicle sales by 2020 vs. 500,000 units annually now, said Jim Farley, who was promoted last week to VP-Scion from corporate manager.

Scion, which will be sold at select Toyota dealerships, has fine-tuned its target. Mr. Farley said the sub-brand is now aimed at the 15% of Gen Y considered trendsetters, known as experts by their peers in taste and design. The target, Toyota said, has luxury expectations at a subcompact vehicle price." Scion's first two models will be priced under $16,000.

contributing: richard linnett

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