A charismatic brindle Boxer named Buddy has been chosen by Toyota SA and its marketing partner of nearly 50 years, Draftfcb, to star in the new Toyota Corolla TV ad which debuts on 25 September.
Buddy conveys the message that underneath the Toyota Corolla’s stylish, clean lines and refined touches, it is the same solid, reliable and dependable vehicle manufactured by a grounded and fun-loving South African company.
In the commercial Buddy attempts to behave with sophistication and grace – to match the refined and streamlined Corolla – but fails miserably, despite a heroic effort, in that both his speech and actions are down-to-earth, spontaneous and enthusiastic.
Word has it that this is the first of many appearances for Buddy. When developing the strategy behind the commercial, Draftfcb Johannesburg took serious cognisance of the fact that Toyota has continually built a legacy based on quality, durability and reliability. In the consumer’s mind, these add up to “trust’.
According to group business director on the account, Romaine Mackenzie, trust is the one quality Toyota truly owns, the one characteristic its competitors can’t challenge it on. So, in these trying economic times, its communication needs to remind consumers that Toyota vehicles are “loyal’ and will never let you down.
“As a result of this thinking, we set out to find an icon. Not only did this icon need to embody the spirit of Toyota but, from an advertising point-of-view, it needed to be instantly recognised no matter the execution, thus maximising spend. Also, this icon needed to transcend race, gender and age, and – most importantly – pull at the heart strings without being soppy.
“The character we believe will achieve this is a talking dog. Simply, dogs love going in cars, they have just as much of a relationship with them as people do and if they could talk, what would they say? Our icon, Buddy, is the dog’s dog; the epitome of reliability, honesty, loyalty and warm-heartedness, he personifies the Toyota brand in a universal way.
“In adspeak, ’Buddy’ represents a different approach to take advantage of the opportunities presented by these challenging times. This approach is fresh, it is distinctive versus different, it has tonality, and provides consumers with a talking point,’ she said.
Toyota South Africa’s Vice President of Marketing Planning & Communications, Marius Vorster, concurred: “When the concept was explained to us we immediately saw its potential, and gave the go ahead immediately. It just felt right – right for the brand, right for the times. It was the brave and bold approach we’d wanted, and we couldn’t wait to see the finished execution. Now that the first ad is flighting, we’re certain we made the correct decision.’
Mackenzie added the decision to utilise a non-human character was not taken lightly. At the same time, production techniques had to take into account the fact that every rand spent during tough economic times must work that much harder.
The ad was developed by Draftfcb Johannesburg’s creative team of group executive creative director Brett Morris and Ivor Forrester. It relies on extensive post-production to “bring Buddy to life’ as he has the only “talking part’ in the script. This was achieved by super-imposing a human mouth over Buddy’s, so that he really does “talk’.
Explained Bouffant Productions’ Producer, Boris Vossgatter: “Our challenge was to find a treatment that would bring Buddy to life … in a distinct manner. The “Babe’ talking pig option, which synchronises the animal’s jaw movements with a voice-over, has been done several times already.
“We therefore opted for compositing a human mouth over the dog’s mouth, in conjunction with the special effects creators at Sinister Studios. We believed this technique would entertain the viewers and create a memorable ad.
“However, to make the technique work, we needed a dog that had a relatively flat snout and keeps its mouth closed. This was a big task for our animal wrangler, Julie Bezuidenhout, who found our Buddy after putting over 80 dogs through their paces. Eventually, she found our protagonist, a stud of a Boxer who could – at times – sit, keep his mouth shut and take direction at the same time!
“It was also a challenge for G-Stop, the casting agent, to identify the right actor to morph with Buddy as voice and lip movements were critical; they needed to be just right in order to maximise the humour.
“Fortunately, our chosen boxer proved a star on set; after just a week’s training he put in several fantastic performances. Lips and voice were filmed separately and then the two were combined at Sinister Studio. A daunting task but it works,’ he said.
Concluded Mackenzie: “Toyota SA is very cognisant of the fact that now is an opportune time to build share of voice, which should translate into market share once the economic recovery begins. However, given that budgets are finite, we couldn’t simply make more ads and air them more frequently. Instead, we opted to develop a creative thread – Buddy – that would have relevance for all Toyota brands and all its marketing requirements.
“Importantly for Toyota, Buddy can be extended to all parts of the business, and is an idea that spans all channels of communication. Of course, it is a pretty radical approach and a departure from Toyota’s historic marketing modus operandi, but we believe it will pay dividends in these rather unique – for the current generation of marketers and advertising professionals – trading conditions.’