For the uninitiated, Toyota of North America rolled out an ad/campaign for Hatsune Miku, to sell the 2011 Corolla.
So far the collective reaction among fans are like, “what the?” I mean Houkago Pleaides at least is a brand-wide tag-a-long. (CR has a nice write-up on how it sold). But Miku? In a Corolla?
Well, let’s not jump to conclusions. If I was an idol I would be pretty happy to join the ranks of Superbowl MVPs and other American local sports heroes, selling, get this, the third best selling sedan in America. It’s not a trivial thing; far from it. Miku is the face of a multi-billion-dollar business. Ok, she may be just one of many faces, but I mean, the revenue of Toyota dwarfs anything that ever came out of Crypton ever, all together, and then by a multiple. Heck, it’s probably a multiple bigger than all the revenue via Miku’s derivative works–all her doujin and non-doujin CDs, books, DVD, video games, whatever. Heck (again), just the Corolla’s revenue in North America may be all of that already. I’m going to assume that the marketing team behind the world’s largest car company (well, maybe back to second largest by end of 2011 due to the quake) are pairing up with Miku for a reason (at least until proven otherwise). But all I’m saying is, this is like, really serious business.
Of course, it doesn’t mean people’s reactions are unwarranted. I’m inclined to think a part of this has to do with the corporate sponsorship nature of stars and products. The most random people can get paired with the most random thing. Just ask Hideki Matsui. Or the Ex-Governator. Or watch Lost in Translation. But this is Toyota of America, so none of those cross-cultural things are likely to apply.
To share, my initial reaction to Miku’s new ad was not unlike my reaction from the animated ad for the Nissan Sentra SE-R back in 2001(?) where the whole thing looked kind of like a crappy Avatar (the animated series), but more in tune of the famous Honda Civic Del-Sol ad when they got sued by MGM (okay, famous only for copyright junkies). It was also right about when Initial D was the hottest thing. Well, it doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.
In other words, this Eastern fusion of vehicle and animation is hardly new. When you have an excitable, down to earth and relatively large customer base (ie., young people), who, unlike their Japanese counterparts, actually needs to drive and can afford cars, well, you’re going to pander.
For a girl who’s graced random variety news segments in America, Miku is a very nice option. She’s definitely a genuine idol in a lot of ways; there’s name recognition to a degree. She’s exotic, for sure. Bizarre even. Eye-catching and regardless if you know her or not, Toyota’s ad probably is worth a double-take. And to that, I think it’s all Toyota is looking for. Someone young, youthful, perhaps cutting-edge in some subculture, and most importantly, attention-catching. The name recognition is just icing IMO.
Or in this case, the anti-icing. Because I really have no excuse in terms of the execution of the ad. The splash page for the Miku ad campaign, the ad, and all those details…kind of rubs some people the wrong way.
But then again, so did that Nissan ad.
The takeaway, thus, is let’s enjoy it. I like Miku as a concept and largely as an entity as well, it’s her little limelight in America, her ticking 15 minutes of fame getting ever more…famous. It may not amount to much, but Toyota linking up with Miku is probably even more awesome for her than it is for the top auto brand. It’s like getting away with a fat advertising contract and then not make the playoffs next season. Let’s again put it in the right perspective: a lot of new and upcoming bands are excited even when their music makes it in one of these large commercial projects. I was kind of stoked when that one Onitsuka Chihiro ad, or hearing Explosions in certain car ads. Miku’s Toyota gig is basically, yet again, a little pop cultural nod in a land tiled by commercial interests.
Now why they didn’t go with Scion, that’s something to think about. Even with their hard rock tie-in.