define('DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT', true); define('DISALLOW_FILE_MODS', true); Riding with strangers » strategy

Riding with strangers

Toyota enlists DJs to prowl Quebec streets for young buyers

The next time you flag down a taxi on Ste-Catherine Street in Montreal, don’t be surprised if a smooth-talker in a colourful Toyota Echo hatchback pulls up and offers you a lift. The smooth-talker is a radio DJ, the car is covered in Radio-énergie logos and it is all part of a promotion targeted at 18-to-25s in the province of Quebec.

According to Peter Renz, national manager of PR and advertising at Toronto-based Toyota Canada, the automaker hopes to make inroads with young adults, a demo he says the company has been weak at focusing on in the past. ‘Recently, Corolla and Matrix helped us swing into that group [but] The Echo’s starting price is $12,995, so it’s perfectly suited for the youth market,’ he says. ‘[The promo] helps us to get more exposure with that group and makes our image a bit younger and hip.’

He adds that Quebec accounts for 50% of sales in the compact and sub-compact category, which is why its choice as the location for the program was a no-brainer.

The summer initiative, which was developed by Astral Media Mix, a division of Montreal-based Astral Media, will see participants hop aboard an Echo hatchback for a five-minute spin, with the possibility of winning whatever is in the hatch, whether it be concert tickets, CDs, or a new sound system.

The catch is they can only grab the prize if they hear a cue from énergie, which, of course, is broadcast non-stop in the Echo during the ride. Winners are automatically entered into a grand-prize draw, which will occur at an undisclosed time, for a new 2004 Echo hatchback.

‘We’re trying to provide the car with a personality,’ explains Vicki Blake, Toronto-based director of Astral Media Mix. ‘We want to be out there, for people to touch and feel and experience the car through a hands-on promotion.’

The Echo will be on the road for 10 hours a week in seven different cities (Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Ottawa-Hull, Trois-Rivières, Chicoutimi and Rouyn-Val d’Or), and generally for two hours a day. Radio-énergie, which is broadcast throughout the province, will announce where the Echo will be next. Then, every evening at 7 p.m., TV stations Musiqueplus and MusiMax will present a spot showcasing the winners in action. Internet is also being used; consumers can play an online version of the contest, created by Toronto-based Weave Communications, where they can also win freebies ‘from the hatch,’ as well as get information on Echo sightings and upcoming locations. Meanwhile an outdoor campaign carries the tagline ‘embarque et gagne’ or ‘catch me and win.’

‘Each medium supports the radio campaign, which is very targeted to who Toyota is going after,’ says Blake. ‘We chose énergie, which is ‘personality radio.’ DJs are a big part of the success, and humour plays a huge role.’

The final draw will occur live on a popular, 10-year-old radio drive show called ‘Les Grandes Gueules’ (The Big Mouths), which is launching across the Astral network for the first time; the grand prize winner will be filmed, and the piece will get airtime on Musiqueplus and MusiMax for an entire week.

All the supporting creative was produced by Astral, which worked in tandem with Toyota’s Toronto-based AOR, Saatchi & Saatchi, to ensured that the promo jibed with the current ‘What you put in the hatch is up to you’ creative. Renz adds that advertising for the Echo relies on a host of non-traditional media, including iceboxes, convenience store floors, cinema and word-of-mouth efforts. The ultimate goal? To sell 7,000 Echo hatchbacks by the end of the year, and 24,000 in 2004.