Corolla’s subliminal affair

Yes, that is a Corolla sandwiched inside a Burger King ad.

Yes, that is a Corolla sandwiched inside a Burger King ad.

The recent ‘Corolla Affair’ by Montreal-based Bleublancrouge (BBR) for the Quebec Toyota Dealers Association included one-second ‘subliminal’ flashes of the car in hopes of getting people talking about the Corolla again. Fellow BBR client Burger King graciously allowed the one-second car shot to be slotted inside one of its ads, since one-second media buys are hard to come by.

‘It’s about rediscovering the Corolla,’ explains Bernard LeBourdais, VP group director at BBR, adding that since the model is over 40 years old, a lot of people take it for granted. The flashes worked. Says LeBourdais: ‘TV networks got e-mails saying: ‘I saw some subliminal ads.”

Phase one also included a Corolla mention tucked into a radio spot for another BBR client, Cumulous restaurant. Phase two consisted of a faux ‘vox populi’ commercial featuring people saying they had heard of the ‘Corolla Affair’ but weren’t sure what it was. There was also a vague faux classified-section newspaper ad that said: ‘Looking for 2007 Toyota Corolla. The Affair everyone is talking about. Call Allan.’ Phase three entailed the ‘full reveal,’ and included three TV spots, print and POP detailing Corolla benefits.

We asked Martin Beauvais, CD at Toronto-based Zig, and Laurent Prud’homme, CD at Cossette Montreal, to weigh in on the Corolla Affair.


MB: This is a nice attempt to make people talk about the Corolla – to create some buzz, get some reactions. It’s a simple thought but a very good one.

LP: There’s not much to say. Wannabe subliminal spots, fake testimonials, ‘déja-vu’ commercials, hideous print…BBR missed the mark.

TV – Vox populi and info-based spots

MB: Nice idea to do a vox populi, but they should have been done with real people. These do not feel genuine. I guess if enough weight had been put behind the one-second spot, it could have been possible to do a real vox populi. Also, not sure the last three spots were needed, either. Really, the one-second spot was enough. The car looked great – not for long, but great.

LP: Please, stop that at once. Real, authentic testimonials are really hard to do. And even if it’s not my cup of tea, or the most creative thing, I respect that when well done. But fake vox populi are a shame.


MB: I love the ad where the dealers deny their responsibility [a faux public notice reads 'Toyota wishes not to be held responsible for the subliminal advertising to air January 14-16']. It legitimizes the whole thing.

LP: Oh my! It’s time for BBR to hire some art directors. I know that dealers’ ads [Editor's Note: in this case, BBR had to answer to over 30 dealers] are difficult to ‘art-direct’ but please, give it some thought. What’s the link with TV? The ‘Corolla Affair’ title!?

One-second ‘flashes’

MB: I love this. Subliminal is nothing new, but it is really well done here.

I think just that would have been enough to make people talk about the car again. I would have put all the media behind this to get real talk value.

LP: I prefer the radio mentions.

The frames inserted into the Burger King TV spot are too obvious (and badly shot). Is it clever? Not in my books.

The creds

Client – Quebec Toyota Dealers Association

Agency – Bleublancrouge

Benoît Chapellier, VP, strategic planning; Gaëtan Namouric, CD; Maxime Paiement, copywriter; Sébastien Deland, AD; Serges Tougas, senior partner; Bernard LeBourdais, VP group director; Jay Hébert, account supervisor;

Eric Noël, VP, BBR interactive; Normand Vaillancourt, agency producer;

Marie-Isabelle Pépin, media planner; Claude Lamoureux, media planner