The Deconstructed Brief



Brand: Toyota
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi L.A.


The automotive industry invests more advertising dollars in the fourth quarter than any other time of year, spending a cumulative $3.4 billion on holiday features. Seasonal advertising presents a series of challenges for these brands, as they attempt to create impactful content that stands out from competitors’ work. Toyota needed to distinguish itself in order to repeat the past success of its December to Remember and Toyotathon promotional events. In order to ensure that the 38th year of its annual campaign met targets, the brand needed to reach an overlooked segment of the American population: moms.

One Thought:

This holiday season, help Mom say, “I love you,” with a truck.


According to Forbes, mothers control 85 percent of household purchases and have a U.S. spending power of $2.4 trillion. They maintain this role as influencers within friend groups, which ask them for product recommendations an average of 10 times per month. Overlooking this group on the grounds that men serve as the traditional audience for trucks ignores a vast area of opportunity.

On November 28, Toyota aired a 100-second, isolated spot between “This Is Us”  and “The Voice.” “This Is Us” is the standout NBC “dramedy” following the Pearson family across the decades. The show averages 15 million viewers and maintains an engaged following — since its September premiere, “This Is Us” has created over 21.5 million instances of social engagement.

The series has been especially popular among women, ranking as the third-highest-rated show for female viewers, ages 18 to 34, behind only “Empire” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” To grab these viewers’ attention, Toyota mimicked the message of the hit television show in an emotional appeal that ensured the attention of mothers and their families. While not everyone understands the value of horsepower, everyone can identify with the desire to show your loved ones you care during the holidays.

What they had to say:

“The winter holiday season seems to get longer every year, with retail advertising starting earlier than the year before,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president, Toyota Division Marketing, Toyota Motor North America. “Of course we have retail ads just like our competitors, but we believe it's also important to remind customers of the true meaning of the holiday season.”

Lessons to be learned:

  • Create a sincere connection — Toyota creates a connection between the viewer and the content, but also between the content and the environment it inhabits. Director Lance Accord (Park Pictures) crafted and filmed the spot in a style similar to “This Is Us” in order to amplify its impact. It stars a real family of actors, including grandparents, their daughter and her husband and children, local to central California where the spot was filmed. The story also mimics the series: a heartfelt, multigenerational tale about family love. Instead of dominating the space, the advertisement found a way to embody its tone for a more powerful experience.
  • Give power to the brand — In order to compete with the growing threat from online retailers, many companies have doubled down on deal and product promotion to convince consumers of their value and relevance. Toyota implemented the opposite strategy in favor of emphasizing its brand over straight product advertising. Toyota vehicles feature in less than 10 seconds of the 100-second spot when facilitating the storyline.
  • The devil’s in the [subtle] details — Toyota uses key thematic elements to support its underlying seasonal and brand messaging. The viewer understands that this is a Christmas feature, not because of festive decorations or endless snowdrifts, but by the tone of the piece. One of Toyota’s core, cultural truths comes from the concept of longevity: Toyota lasts forever. The company leans on this implication throughout the entirety of the advertisement by following the tree and its connection to the family throughout the ages.
  • Embrace the unfamiliar — Consumers know Toyota for its aggressive Toyotathon advertising come Christmastime; however, this spot premiered devoid of the company’s traditionally overzealous messaging. By changing its tone and positioning the relationships between the characters as the focal point of the advertisement, Toyota demonstrates that it is unafraid of elements uncommon for truck commercials. The relationship between the mother and her mother demonstrates a commitment to giving back, and the relationship between the mother and her husband reflects a new generation of female decision-makers. This advertisement is not for women because of the drama or sentiment, but because it focuses on realizing the mother’s goals and objectives.