Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Not a People Person

A high-concept television spot is a tough sell. The idea has to be so bullet-proof that the viewer gets the point immediately, but even if it is, the client needs to be convinced its customers don't need to be pandered to. So in the case of this "People Person" commercial for Prius, Toyota must have simply put its faith in Saatchi & Saatchi's reputation for brand leadership. Blindly, it would seem.

It's a strange approach to a very significant announcement: that Prius now offers four slightly different models -- one for each type of person. The spots start off with a "human" comprised of a dozen or so contortionists clinging together to form a grossly suggested humanoid face and its body parts. Despite the upbeat jingle ("Got To Be Free" by the Kinks), the effect is so monstrous that small children all over America must be cowering in corners whenever the spot runs -- and I'm not saying that just because of my irrational fear of monkeys dressed in clothes. I'd be offput if I saw this trick performed at the Cirque du Soleil, but in the context of a car ad you might encounter ten times a night it's eerily frightening.

Then, once the interlocked gymnasts uncouple and are revealed to be different types of consumers, the idea that there's a car model for each of their needs comes through. But why were they all jumbled together as one "person" in the first place? It's the line of cars that are a family, not the people.

I suspect that this was a case where a creative director wanted to utilize what he thought was a cool effect, and shoehorned it into a marketing message. It doesn't work, it's inordinately creepy, and if I'd been planning to buy a Prius, I'm certainly not going to now.

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