Kids become winning brand ambassadors for Mitsubishi safety features

Kids in booster seats might not seem the most likely brand ambassadors for auto brands, but with its ongoing “Kids Talk Safety” campaign, Mitsubishi has a few budding stars to help tell their safety story.

Mitsubishi might not be the first auto company to come to mind when you think advertising, but this campaign has pushed the brand into the social sphere and expanded into traditional 30-second spots, featuring imaginative kids talking up the safety benefits of the 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander, a campaign which is now winning awards.

The kids are allowed to be themselves – nothing scripted – as they discuss such topics as Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Forward Collision Mitigation. The talkative tykes are incredible storytellers, going from the facts about the car – which they were coached on – to how they would use the safety features.

“Do you know what I’d really try and avoid hitting? A UFO with an alien,” said Brandon, one of the kids featured in the ads, regarding forward collision mitigation.

“You know what would be really cool to have hiding in your blind spot? Maybe a fifth dimension portal,” offered young Caleb regarding blind spot warning.

It’s that sense of honesty and whimsy that recently earned Mitsubishi Motors North America the fifth annual Driving Engagement Award for the most buzz-worthy social media campaign of 2016 by The Chicago Auto Show and Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

Overall, the campaign reached more than half a million people and saw a rate of engagement three times higher than any former campaign. The smart casting and coaching of the kids is a huge reason why the campaign connected so well.

Engineering a winning campaign

The casting and creative were done by Omelet out of Los Angeles.

“Mitsubishi came to us and asked us to do a social content series. They didn’t have a ton of money but wanted to get as much content as they could,” said Grant Holland, chief creative officer at Omelet.

“We found a person who does ‘real person’ casting. These were kids who hadn't done a lot of acting before. We just let them be themselves. They didn’t have to read lines. Because there weren’t scripts we had them have a lot of fun.”

Said Francine Harsini, senior director of marketing, Mitsubishi Motors North America: “As a company we don’t buy into SAG talent. I think that made it all the more real. They’re authentic kids. I think that’s what comes across is that they’re genuine.”

At the shoot, Omelet created a system where the director would sit in the car with the kids and explore whatever direction they wanted to go. They explained the safety terminology in terms the kids could understand, then they had them think about what that would mean to them personally. That’s when the aliens, princesses and clown cars with sad clowns came into the picture.

“It really worked out well. We kept it simple, almost like a conversation in the car,” added Holland.

The kids were then encouraged to draw the things they were talking about. Those drawings became the inspiration for the crayon-style animations that pop in throughout the videos.

“These kids are so comfortable around people. Caleb was one of my favorites. He wanted to talk and tell stories. Just a great, super smart kid. He was the most interested in the safety features and wanting to understand them,” said Holland.

Omelet originally set out to do six to eight videos, but the kids were so engaging that the crew kept going, challenging themselves to see how much they could get. They mixed and matched the kids and had them keep talking. Eventually, 17 videos were cut from the footage.

“They were engaging, fun and memorable,” said Harsini. “This content is something we thought in social would be shared and that was different from what else was out there.”

What was originally intended just for a social media campaign quickly grew. The Mitsubishi dealers reacted really so positively to it that they asked if they could have 30-second spots cut for television.

“They said it was so engaging that it will drive business and interest in the brand. Anything we can do to further the brand and engage with our customer base, the better,” said Harsini. “It really isn’t about the 30-second spot. It really is about the idea itself. Does it have arms and legs to blossom into other areas? This one was social, but we had point of purchase. We had coloring books we made for this with crayons we sent to the dealership. Refrigerator magnets.”

Because of the popularity of the campaign, Alex Fedorak, manager of public relations for Mitsubishi Motors North America, took some of the kids to the Los Angeles Auto Show to be brand representatives. They showed the same fearlessness there, talking with journalists and attendees, handing out magnets and even swapping swag with other auto reps. The kids were filmed at the event and that footage was also spliced into a promo video, playing off the popularity of the kids.

Finally, Mitsubishi took the campaign to the Chicago Auto Show, where it won the WOMMA award against stiff competition from bigger auto brands.

“We were pretty stoked. We were up against some really good competition, with Volkswagen and Honda finishing second and third. I think we caught a lot of people by surprise with this campaign. People were still talking about it at the Chicago Auto Show,” said Fedorak.

Setting the stage for another campaign

Mitsubishi is definitely happy with the job Omelet did on the campaign and hopes they might be able to continue the magic.

“They really wanted to go above and beyond and show us what they could do, and they did so in spades. They over-delivered. It really was a good client-agency job. It starts with a good collaboration,” said Harsini.

Holland said that Mitsubishi and Omelet have been in talks to continue the campaign, especially since it’s now a proven idea that is fairly simple to execute, something the brand agrees with.

“In its simplicity, it just evolved. I think we haven’t seen the end of it…Is there a phase two of this? How can we continue it? Because there’s something there. If an idea is that good, don’t throw it by the wayside. Is there way to keep capitalizing on this? We shouldn’t just turn the page,” concluded Harsini.