Marty Bernstein is an advertising consultant and has worked on auto accounts at Campbell-Ewald and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles

Teasers are back, and it's about time

AD REVIEW: Two automotive brands, from different manufacturers, are teasing the public. One source is expected, the other a surprise.

Automotive News | October 15, 2001 - 12:01 am EST
For the longest time I have wondered what has happened to advertising that whets the appetite for new cars.

Well, the teasers are back. Two automotive brands, from different manufacturers, are teasing the public. One source is expected, the other a surprise.

The unexpected

Until now, Toyota's advertising from Saatchi & Saatchi in Los Angeles for the most part has been lackluster and uninspiring. So, much to my surprise, while channel crawling through the options of my digital cable system, I came upon a teaser commercial for Toyota's Matrix.

It was welcome for two reasons: One, it's a teaser. How many remember when a dealer's showroom window was painted white to block out all viewers? The only sign gave a date when the new whatever would go on display. When the paint was removed and the new model was unveiled, it was an exciting event.

The second reason? It's a sensational grabber - as in "Wow! What in the -- was that about?" I had to put a stopwatch on the spot to make sure how long it was. My eyes said a 10-second spot it moved so fast. Wrong. It's a 30.

The 30-second spot opens with an almost surrealistic black-and-white shot of rolling thunderclouds. Suddenly, there's a crash of lightning, shown in a hint of color as the clouds broil and roll.

Then claps of thunder and the lettered words: "60 mph, over asphalt, no helmet, pleasure without the pain."

The car's profile, not easily identified, appears. Suddenly, the word "Matrix" appears on the rear deck, then the speedometer in color with the indicator at 60 mph.

The clouds vanish, but the sound continues as the Toyota Matrix appears in a spotlight. Over black, the word "Matrix" flies in and disappears. As the commercial ends, two more supers appear - "Coming," then "02 02" - and vanish.

The Toyota logo and the final super dissolves on, "Get the Feeling Toyota."

Whew! It's exhilarating, exciting - and fun to watch.

The expected

Late last year Crispin, Porter & Bogusy in Miami, a smallish independent agency known for its award winning creative work, was appointed the advertising agency of record for the Mini Cooper, the upscale model of BMW's Mini Division.

Recently, Mini Division and the agency unveiled the Mini's brand positioning to media in New York in a tease of "advertising to come."

The target for the redesigned, re-engineered, revitalized Mini will be - no surprise - an upscale, under-35 person with a college education living in or near a major metropolitan area with an above-average income. The target of the new advertising also will be an individual who does not follow fashion or convention but is instead a trendsetter.

To reach these targets, the advertising positioning is summed up in just one word: motoring.

While no advertising was shown, a glimpse of things to come was premiered in the form of a booklet called Motoring. This conversational, often funny little tome details the many "aspects, elements, surprises and personalities of the new Mini," said Jack Pitney, general manager of the Mini brand of North America. It's a tease of things to come."

Combine the quirkiness of the Mini Cooper and the creative reputation of the agency, and this tease leads me to believe - based on the fact that the way you start is the way you finish - there are more teases to come. One thing is for sure: It's going to be a different kind of tease. I'm looking forward to it.

GM's 'Keep America Rolling'

It's damned difficult to review a commercial that is in response to the action of terrorists.

You've probably seen the commercial. The point-of-view camera perspective puts you in the driver's seat. All you see is the highway and adjacent landscape rolling in front of you. The unknown vehicle moves down a road that seems to go on forever. It establishes a feeling of driving to an unknown destination in the future - somewhere where things and life would be better.

It wasn't a commercial commercial either - early on. No profiles of GM cars or trucks, not a logo in sight. And, favorably, not one element, no matter how patriotic or ubiquitous, was used to create an extraneous emotional feeling. Just you, the driver, looking through a windshield to a better world, a better life.

The first two-thirds of the commercial are imaginative and, yes, inspirational.

The last 10 seconds are troubling when the announcer talks about the president asking all Americans to return to a normal life and to get the economy moving, followed by the announcement of GM's new 0 percent financing program.

Let's face it, General Motors' launch of 0 percent financing gave it a great competitive advantage (for a couple of days) as well as a great inducement for prospective buyers to enter dealer showrooms.

So what's bothering me? Why the ambivalence? It's the combination of altruistic appeal and crass commercial message. Even GM's president of North American operations, Ron Zarrella, expressed trepidation. In a media release, Zarrella said, "We know this is a difficult time to talk about an incentive program, but GM has a responsibility to help stimulate the economy by encouraging American to purchase vehicles."

While our hearts are aching from this senseless tragedy and our nation has mounted a major offensive against terrorists, the world that stopped mere weeks ago must go on. As New York's mayor, Rudy Giuliani has said, "We've got to do it bigger and better than ever before."

Let's hope all advertising can keep pace with these ambitious goals without feelings of ambivalence.


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