Toyota have chosen 5 or 6 agencies and have asked them to spend $15,000 each on a “social media marketing campaign”. Think “stunt” and you have a better idea of what they are talking about.. And while traditional media pitches means war to get content into banner ads, on TV and radio, when it comes to using the same tactics in online communities, there’s damage done.  What happened to engagement, respect, conversation, collaboration, dialogue? Re: the video. If you want a different kind of engagement than social media stunts, please retweet or comment or link or something? If you are fine with it, that’s ok too. My wish for a indepth social media engagement from Toyota goes unanswered so far I guess.

Toyota Australia have given 5 agencies – well 6 but 2 are working together:

Todd Connolly, manager – new media and direct marketing at Toyota, said the company has purposefully given agencies a low budget and limited time to work on the social media ideas “so the idea comes ahead of everything else”. (BandT)

Even ahead of us, the customer I guess. By customer, I mean, people who are engaged in online community activity and may not want to be inflicted with poorly thought out, temporary, low budget, campaigns.

To put in context Toyota Yaris $15,000 budgets to come up with a social media campaign, Peter Webster National Marketing Manager for Toyota in Australia in April 2009 had $80-85 million spending power.  B&T have the details:

Toyota has revealed the agencies that have been successful in the first stage of its social media pitch – Saatchi & Saatchi, Oddfellows partnering with The Population, Hothouse, One Green Bean and Iris.

B&T Today revealed last week that Toyota is running the social media pitch, pitting eight agencies against each other with four agencies then to go head to head with their ideas in the public domain. Following on from this, the two best will produce further work in the new year.

Such was the strength of the ideas, according to Toyota’s Todd Connolly, manager – new media and direct marketing, that five have now been picked to go ahead of the original eight, instead of the planned four.

The agencies have now been given two weeks for production, working on a limited budget, understood to be $15,000 per campaign.

“We have taken the ideas from everyone involved, both from traditional above-the-line agencies and boutique agencies. All eight were of a high calibre, all were very fresh ideas,” said Connolly. (B&T Oct 20)

Now with traditional media, this would be a highly entertaining bloodletting that we could all sit back and watch. Unfortunately though, it’s the members of online communities that are the prey, and the hounds have been let loose:

The Toyota marketer did not disclose the nature of the social media campaigns given the green light, but they should be evident to the public in the near future – its expected all of the campaigns will have finished their run in around six weeks time. This is the scheduled end of the campaign, but if any of the campaigns create “groundswell”, Toyota will continue the conversation with those customers. (B&T 20 Oct)

My word, mighty good of ’em no? If they accidentally actually engage with a customer or three – God Forbid – then Toyota will deem to continue the discussion into the future.

ripple timeline

Engagement, like all good relationships, often build slowly over time. The opposite of the short head of traditional marketing where there’s lots of activity for 4-6 weeks, quick return, then drops off/dies off quickly: social media is in the long tail, with lots of listening and discussion at the beginning and a quick seed into the community later, in the long tail. Six week stunts can only damage long term engagement campaigns. Or put it this way: social media becomes social advertising, a completely different kind of relationship.

Just a word on unified brand message – 4 or 5 agencies, trying to show how different and unique they are doesn’t deliver a brand message, except one of “we will win at all costs”.

Thompson insisted that Toyota has maintained a consistent marketing message, despite the different style and tone adopted in the hybrid work and the current social media work on its Yaris brand.

“Toyota has been a fairly traditional advertiser, but we pride ourselves on being the first to market with new innovations and opportunities,” he said.

“The social media work has been very interesting and it has created a buzz. The tone does change depending on the audience, but we’ve done a lot of work to ensure the strategy is consistent.

Really? A lot of work to remain consistent? Let’s see…

  • Hothouse teamed with Blunty of YouTube (hope they are paying a minimum of $7,500 for his YouTube influence) and came up with yet another riff on the Lego funny videos. Hey, if you leave a comment you can win a car.
  • One Green Bean has a werewolf in a Yaris – you can register on Facebook or Twitter and use GPS to flag him down and get a lift to a Halloween party
  • Saatchi and Saatchi have a Clever Film Comp – enter a film mentioning Yaris, Judges award $7,000, $3,000 and $1,000. No community voting, very very basic.
  • Iris – I haven’t seen their submission.

BeamsFromVenus makes the evergreen point that social media means social

So instead of getting a bunch of agencies to out-stunt each other, why not let the consumer get hold of this first and tell Toyota what they think of the Yaris?

Yes, Saatchi asked the public to make an ad, but that’s so lame. Why ask them to be like us? “Oh Ad agencies are so cool, I would love to make an ad and be like them” Give me a break .  They should be themselves.

The point is, to be social, we need to be social… and that’s being a caring sharing community!

Isn’t that what we want?

So Toyota, stop looking for who’s who and start looking for who counts…

Matt GranfieldSaatchi and Saatchi’s idea of a film contest bores the fuck out of me to be honest.” There’s  no social media here, just the usual “create us an ad”.

But hey, Saatchi did inspire me to do the video at the top – and at least Toyota has agency people interested in buying a Yaris now, because that’s who the campaigns will mostly interest.

If you see any traditional media (or even Facebook ads) used to promote the campaigns in the next few weeks, let me know?

My questions to Toyota:

Before descending on social networks like a plague of locusts, what monitoring have they done? how did they choose their networks (all the agencies so far chose Facebook, YouTube or Twitter).

How respectful to the community members are they? Have they gained enough support and respect to ask them to help promote  your products or services?

If I had $85 million (Toyota Australia marketing spend) I’d be putting a damn sight more into social media than chucking a few dollar bills at a handful of agencies and asking them to push my product out there – and social media is NOT an experiment.

Hmmm: Lego ‘viral’ video (copied from user generated Lego videos), a lift to Halloween parties organised through Facebook, yet another “create us a user generated ad for $7000” campaign. Is that a good use of brand karma, let alone $15,000 x each agency?  By the way, what do you think of companies that get high quality professional ads, normally $30,000 and upwards, for $7,000?

Playing out agency pitch game in public – including how much community members souls are worth – is tacky but is it what I would call “on brand message?

If campaigns/stunts are part of an overall engagement strategy, what do you think Toyota’s overall strategy is? Are there ethical questions around asking agencies to fight over the souls in the communities, or is that “just business as usual”? Do you want it to be business as usual?

If you want businesses like Toyota to change, please leave a comment here, on the video or tweet it. Let’s see if the anti-brand message is stronger than the ‘campaigns’. And if it’s not? Ah well, we get the advertising future we deserve. Heh.