Watch Toyota’s big-budget Tundra ad that recalls the ‘truck souls’ of its past

The spot marks the beginning of the largest U.S. launch campaign in the automaker’s history

Published On
Sep 20, 2021

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Toyota is digging into its truck past to plug its newest pickup—the 2022 Tundra—as part of the largest U.S. ad campaign for a new vehicle launch in Toyota’s history.

A new ad breaking during NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” shows a range of older models charging through rugged landscapes, from fire to snow, culminating with a speeding shot of the Tundra laying a trail of dirt and dust, and the tagline, “Born from Invincible.”

The campaign from Saatchi & Saatchi attempts to separate the Tundra in the hotly competitive full-size pickup segment by portraying it as the product of decades of engineering learnings gleaned by Toyota from selling trucks in different corners of the globe. 

“Our reveal spot sets the stage by reminding consumers that Toyota has been making some of the most dependable, toughest trucks on the planet since the 1950s,” Lisa Materazzo, group VP for Toyota marketing at Toyota Motor North America, stated in an email interview. She declined to reveal campaign spending figures but says, “we’re all in,” adding that “the Tundra launch will be the largest in Toyota’s history, reinforcing how strategically important this vehicle is to us in retaining loyal buyers and attracting new ones.”

The action-packed ad is directed by Antoine Bardou Jacquet, who’s known for his visually inventive productions, including the award-winning Honda "Cog" ad and more recent multi-media spectaculars such as Adobe's "Fantastic Voyage."  

Scenes in the Tundra spot take cues from historical and cultural events in which a Toyota pickup has played a central role. 

One scene shows a rhino racing alongside Toyota’s 1960s Australian Troopy FJ45. It is a reference to news coverage of Toyota-driving tourists surviving a rhino attack in Namibia, according to Saatchi & Saatchi Chief Creative Officer Jason Schragger. (The animals in the ad were created with CGI.)

Another shot in the ad features a 2017 Tundra SR5 speeding through a fiery forest, which was inspired by a 2018 incident in which a California nurse used his white Toyota Tundra to rescue people from a raging wildfire in Paradise, California. The burned-out truck, posted on social media, became known as “Marshmallow Tundra.”

The ad also includes a CGI recreation of an actual 2012 event, when a Tundra hauled space shuttle Endeavor to its final resting spot in the California Science Center. There is even a nod to the “Back to the Future” film franchise in which Marty McFly drove a 1985 Toyota pickup. The ad shows a quick glimpse of a 1985 Tacoma SR5 with a “MCFLY” license plate.

Schragger describes the ad as showing “the new Tundra creating this big dust storm filled with the soul of its past—the souls of all the trucks of Toyota went into building the new Toyota.” He adds: “We wanted it to feel almost like a movie trailer rather than just some advertising.”

The Tundra will hit dealers in late November/early December, with the full campaign kicking into gear in 2022, according to Toyota. Materazzo says the automaker will rely on all its agency partners, including Conill and Burrell, which target multicultural audiences.

With the campaign, Toyota is trying to win attention in a full-size truck segment dominated by the Detroit 3. As recently reported by Automotive News, in the first six months of this year, the Ford F-Series led with sales of 362,082 vehicles, followed by Ram pickups (313,068), the Chevrolet Silverado (286,410) and the GMC Sierra (138,412). The Tundra was fifth at 43,865 vehicles.

The new Tundra will have its in-person coming out party at the Motor Bella, an outdoor event set for Sept. 21-26 in Pontiac, a suburb about a half-hour drive north of Detroit. It marks the first auto show in the region since COVID-19 scuttled the 2020 North American International Auto Show.