Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.: Kids Rule campaign

Guy Patrick Cunningham


Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., was the distributor of Toyota Motor Corp.'s Toyota, Lexus, and Scion brands in the United States. In model year 2004 the company released a new version of its Sienna minivan. This launch was a top priority for the automaker, because the minivan segment featured strong competition from the new Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest as well as from established domestic brands such as the Chrysler Town & Country. A segment-wide decline in sales throughout the 2000s made it imperative that the Sienna improve its meager 41 percent awareness rate among consumers, especially when the segment average stood at 48 percent.

To establish the Sienna in the minds of car buyers, Toyota turned to the Los Angeles office of ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi for a new kind of advertising campaign. In addition to using print ads, the Sienna would be marketed through a series of television commercials aimed at kids. Surveys indicated that more and more families were allowing their children to contribute to the decision about what automobile to purchase. To capitalize on this trend Sienna commercials featured child actors talking up kid-friendly features of the newly redesigned vehicle. For example, one spot featured a crash-test teddy bear, while another plugged the car's roomy interior by having a young boy explain that the car offered enough space for him to avoid his little sister. Each spot featured the tagline "Kids Rule." Toyota also sponsored Yahoo!'s family-friendly Yahooligans! Book Club and capitalized on other unorthodox advertising venues. The campaign's budget exceeded $20 million.