Me on CBC discussing Toyota Highlander ad series

Here’s the audio for my interview on CBC yesterday. As mentioned earlier this week, I was on the air discussing the Toyota Highlander ad series.

Toyota has picked up on stats that show parents increasingly pay attention to their kids when choosing what car to buy. Whereas we’re used to parents choosing cars that accommodate booster seats, car seats, cup holders, DVD players, hockey gear, groceries and the like, now we’re seeing some marketing of cool. Of course, car companies have always marketed "cool" — it’s just that the cool of the previous generation is no longer cool. This ad, though, really picks up on the insecurities of the parents and is aimed at grabbing market share from people who’ve already decided they need an SUV — now they want something cool.

Many people are concerned that the point of this ad is to market cars to children. I’m not so sure. Toyota may be aiming for mindshare from teens here. I don’t think many kids and teens sit around watching ads — everything is on demand, PVR’d, DVD’d and so on. Maybe some teens are looking this campaign up on Youtube.. But I believe Toyota is leaving that to parents. Toyota purposefully developed this ad campaign to garner the ire of the parent bloggers who would push it out through all the social media channels and get it in front of other parents. Although those parent bloggers may not be the intended market for the campaign, they’re a key element in marketing this ad. The thing is that, if you’ve already decided that you "need" an SUV, it’s just a matter of deciding which one. If you’re struggling with the idea of a family car, this ad will grab you.  

As for me, I drive a decided uncool but very practical and fuel efficient Civic, complete with roof racks and a roof carrier. I prefer to walk when I can. And I don’t let my kids watch commercials.

admin says:

My view is that the kid is the dad. It’s his inner child. It’s not a real kid. What real kid says “je ne sais pas”? Or has parents who rock out to Juice Newton? Or drive an 83 Magic Wagon? Or wear turtlenecks? This is the experience of the 37yo man who is trying to reconcile buying a “family car” with his fears of geekdom. It’s the insecurity of the parent we see in the ad. It is not a child.

jg says:

First of all, that kid is NOT a teenager. The ads make the parent look inept and foolish. This is not the message we need to be giving children – that parents are somehow uncool because they can’t figure out a GPS system. I have two master’s degrees and I can’t figure them out either. We need to be presenting parents in a way that demonstrates them as positive role models and the final authority when making major decisions such as which car to purchase.