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By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

October 9, 2017 | 6 min read

Toyota and its European creative agency, The&Partnership recently launched an ambitious campaign, ‘We Choose Hybrid’, that's touting 150 original pieces of creative designed to address almost every conceivable question the public may have about hybrid cars.

Marking The&Partnership’s first work for the Japanese brand, the campaign is aiming to communicate that it has been developing sustainable travel for more than two decades.

Luca Neyroz, general manager for marketing and communications in Europe at Toyota, explained to The Drum that it is delivering a campaign built on vast swathes of creative while maintaining a singular message – We Choose Hybrid.

The initial proposition had to be “something quite simple”; it had to be a “confident statement showing everyone can now choose hybrid”, and it had to be fiercely educational, Neyroz said.

Much of the 150 pieces of content were designed to debunk misconceptions about Toyota hybrids, ideally demolishing barriers to purchase, across emotional, functional and social concerns. The&Partnership’s media agency m/SIX took on the mantle of targeting this creative at four groups of consumers with different assumed states of mind.

Toyota two page print ad

The campaign aimed to target those not open to hybrid Toyota who “needed an electric shock”, fans of the brand unaware of the hybrid range, hybrid fans ignorant of Toyota’s credentials in the space and finally – the easiest group to convert – those already keen on Toyota hybrids.

To serve each group, bespoke creative was necessary. “Rather than serve the same message to everyone, we need to understand where they are in the consumer journey from the website," Neyroz said.

Generating such a vast bank of content was not as difficult as you might imagine.

“We shot a lot of material," Neyroz recalled. "Before, we would have run the same content for everyone, but now you can rejig visuals and copy, and be a lot more precise with the message you want to put across. Using the same source material, we can edit a lot of content that can be served.”

The creative looks to debunk a range of myths around hybrid cars, such as engine performance. But further to that, the campaign is about developing the idea of a hybrid car beyond the rather limited scope of the vehicles that first introduced the idea to the public. Toyota Prius, a vehicle that has been on the market since as early as 1997, is the brand that most likely comes to mind having benefited from a large contingent of the Hollywood elite buying into it. However, now, that is just one of seven ranges available.

Toyota now boasts a Hybrid customer base of 10 million, which it claims is more than any other manufacturer.

“We have moved and evolved from the days of the Prius. Some people may not like the design but we have brought the hybrid to segments of people who want to drive SUVs, with the C-HR and Rav 4,” said Neyroz. The range also boasts a sedan with the Avalon, building upon your atypical dinky Prius city cars.

We choose hybrid

“There hasn’t been a better time to have a strong offensive [for hybrid cars],” stated Neyroz.

For one, a lack of trust in diesel has been propagated thanks to the Volkswagen emissions scandal. In this case, the impact on the environment was found to be more severe than was being announced, and it likely drew into suspicion the pollution reduction efforts of other brands.

And as governments are starting to respond to lobbying to clean up their acts, the days of diesel could be numbered. The UK plans to have petrol and diesel motors off the road by 2040. There are similar efforts worldwide to curb dirty fuels.

Hybrid cars appear to be the solution to these issues.

Neyroz added: “The context is really good, everyone is aware of the issues, regulations are becoming more severe, people are talking about banning diesel, and hybrid is the biggest differentiator.”

But the campaign had to “project a cool and modern and progressive image,” to win hearts and minds. “We’re no longer just for ecowarriors,” added Neyroz.

The campaign creative opens broadly, but it gets ever more specific the more users engage with it. It will be manipulated to dish out model-specific information to those in the market for a new car.

This is being managed by The&Partnership, the agency group Toyota began working with in November 2016. Reflecting on its contribution, Neyroz, said: “They brought this audience-led approach, really understanding that consumers are in different states of mind and are making personal decisions - so understanding isn’t a one fits all tool. With the one concept you can tailor make content and message so it can find the right audience at the right time in the right place.”

The video creative will run across TV and cinema in France, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Germany and the UK.

Neyroz concluded: "I don’t have the pretension that this is all down to the communication, it can only do so much. But is seems that we are coming with the right campaign at the right time with the right message. It seems like the stars are aligning."

Earlier this year the company partnered with Watson Ads, cognitive advertising from The Weather Company, that provides weather data and insights. It claimed that the format allows consumers to have “intelligent, two-way” conversations with brands within the ads.

The work ran in the US, utilising AI to answer common questions about hybrid cars, in particular the Prius. It's just one example of how advertising and technology can be used to inform consumers on the route to a purchase.

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