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Boomers: The Core Venza Market

July 11, 2011

Toyota’s newest vehicle, the Venza crossover, appeals to a very particular demographic: baby boomers. This may sound like a risky idea, but Toyota thinks the Venza will enjoy high sales because it appeals to an older age range.

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Toyota’s Venza Walks Line Between Boomers, Gen Y

Karl Greenberg, Jul 07, 2011 05:48 PM
Toyota will probably get more attention than it bargained for with its new campaign for the Venza crossover. That attention may be at least as much about the campaign’s sociological commentary as it is about the Venza itself.Not that Venza doesn’t need the attention. Since launching the vehicle a couple of years ago, Toyota has been putting more focus on getting the word out about the expansion of the Prius lineup, not to mention dealing with recessionary budgeting that has put a tighter hand on marketing money.The disruptive new campaign, via AOR Saatchi & Saatchi, L.A., overturns a shopworn, if spurious, paradigm that says vehicle advertising must feature 30-somethings at play, doing hip, athletic things and generally being cool. After all, pitch a vehicle to youth and you pitch it to everyone. Pitch it to grandpa and you might as well name it “Old’s.”

Central to the new campaign is a slate of role-switching ads in which boomer parents are the ones having all the fun now that the kids are gone, while the kids who have left home, or moved back are actually the worried, uptight, generally stodgy ones who might be saying, “It’s midnight. Do I know where my parents are?”

Shauna Axton, Saatchi’s strategic planning director, said the effort reflects in-house and third-party research, some of which reveals that boomers feel neglected by advertisers. “There has definitely been a backlash, where boomers feel they are only getting the medication insurance ads, the Cialis or Viagra ads, and we really recognized a gap.” She says the campaign is functionally a means of reaching the people for whom Venza, with easy ingress and egress and lots of push-button functionality, was designed for in the first place: active boomers. “It’s the core buyer of the vehicle.”

Russ Koble, advertising and planning manager for trucks and SUVs at Toyota, agrees. “Advertising has moved away from boomers. You hear that directly from them. ‘Who speaks to us? Pharma, and insurance.’ Our research folks said boomers they want advertising that talks directly to them in an authentic way.”

Boomers are, in fact, a sweet spot for Toyota as a whole, and while for most auto brands that could be a problem when it comes to bringing in new, younger buyers, at Toyota, it’s less of an issue because younger buyers are what Scion was developed for.

Still Koble says that even though the Venza, with its command seating, good sightlines, wide-opening doors, easy load-ins of gear and people, is for the Beatles generation, it was a culture change for Toyota to walk over those coals. “I think historically we have followed the grain, and that is to position [Venza and other vehicles] with younger people and hope you get older buyers,” he says, adding that when Venza initially launched in 2008, the campaign focused on 30-something families as much as it did on boomers. “We had two targets so when we initially launched, so we wound up fragmenting ourselves.” “But there was a big discussion [about the new direction.] Do we go against the grain and listen to what the target is telling us?”

Besides a raft of TV ads, the effort includes print, out of home, and online digital partnerships including a partnership with HD TV with a “Kid’s Room Takeover” theme, based on the premise that, now that the child has finally moved out, the boomers have a new room to play with, and show off how they are using it. “We are trying to connect with their passion points,” says Axton. “We found [boomers] are very active, that they continue to maintain a sense of youth and relevance.” Toyota will likely propel the campaign forward with programs around culinary, home development and home improvement, photography, and philanthropy. “We are seeing boomers — now that they have more time — taking more active role in communities, giving back, volunteering and doing non-profit work.”

Axton also says the campaign’s dichotomy-approach — ads cut between boomers having fun on mountain bikes, horses, at concerts, while their kids are sitting at home worried — reflects other research about the cross generational symbiosis. One study from Google and Compete that Saatchi looked at that shows boomers share the same behaviors as millennials, and that millennials are influencing boomers around new media and technology.

“We like this interplay between them, and wanted to speak to both audiences in a way that acknowledges the perceptions each hold of the other,” says Axton. “We wanted to play on the fact, for example, that traditionally the way millennials have been perceived is as a generation of entitlement, that their parents raised them to be ‘special’ and the center of attention, and that they can do whatever they want.” One of the ads has a millennial worried about her parents, noting that she’s an only child, “…except for my sister.”

The effort also plays upon how boomers feel that technology is making millennials lose touch with how to communicate with people in real life, as in one spot where a daughter of active parents sits alone on her couch looking at Facebook, and worrying over the fact that her parents have only 19 “friends” while she has a lot more. Cut to the parents, engaged in a mountain biking jaunt with other boomer friends, with a voiceover of the girl, back on her couch trying to sound excited about the fact that someone has uploaded a shot of a puppy.

“There’s definitely a connection between active boomers and millennial children, so we are trying to create a campaign that’s shareable between boomers and their children,” says Koble. “There’s lots of social media sharing around what’s going on in their lives, so while we have broadcast spots, there are also unique online ads we have on YouTube that we hope people will share.” One of the online spots is the ironic spot of the girl worrying about the social connectivity of her parents. The other one features a guy who has moved back home and is strolling the hallway worried that his parents are going to sleep so early. Except they are actually at an outdoor concert. That spot is set to a song by The Cars. “Millennial children, once they get past the college stage, start to worry about how to take care of their parents.”

Axton says a lot of the humor and interplay in the ads came from “All of us [millennials] at Saatchi having conversations about our own parents, and their new sense of freedom now that we have moved out. One of my own experiences is calling my parents, and no one is home, and there’s this role reversal where I’m telling them they really need to tell me when they are going out somewhere.” she says.

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