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Contestants Are Here To Reinvent Scion's Wheels, Not Make Friends

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Teaser image for Scion's 'Reinvent the Wheels' campaign

Teaser image for Scion's 'Reinvent the Wheels' campaign

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2011 Scion tC

2011 Scion tC

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2011 Scion iQ

2011 Scion iQ

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Question: What do you get if you cross Ford's popular "Fiesta Movement" marketing campaign with the hit TV show Project Runway, the unwatchable Launch My Line, and a dash or two of Monster Garage (minus JJ's adultery)? Answer: Scion's "Reinvent the Wheels" campaign.

The premise of the campaign is pretty straightforward: Scion and its ad agency, ATTIK, have recruited three "celebs" to judge a field of six photogenic young people, each of whom wants to turn an off-the-lot Scion into his/her dream car. The line-up of contestants includes a couple of DJs, a pastry chef, a film maker, an actor, and a special-effects makeup artist. Like most project-oriented reality shows, the contestants work with a mentor -- in this case, a tattoo artist -- who guides them through challenges. Eventually one will walk off with the vehicle they've made.

The marketing angle behind "Reinvent the Wheels" is pretty straightforward, too. ATTIK's executive creative director, Simon Needham, sums it up:

"The primary goal of 'Reinvent The Wheels' is to further Scion's conversation with trendsetting, creative 18-24-year-olds.... We're always looking for new ways to spread Scion's messages, and we know the target audience spends a great amount of time interacting online, sharing, socializing and watching. Developing an online reality show is a fresh approach to engaging and entertaining them, and also leverages social networking in igniting buzz."

Apart from Needham's reliance on buzzwords and a couple of "duh" statements (young people spend time online? really?), there are several other things wrong with this campaign.

First, Scion and ATTIK call it an "online episodic reality series", which is redundant: all reality series are episodic. That's what makes them a series.

Second, all the designs appear to be focused around the 2010 Scion xB, but that isn't mentioned anywhere in the press materials. It would seem like the producers and publicists -- not to mention Scion -- might want to hype the vehicle around which the series is based.

Third, the director and director of photography are clearly fresh out of film school, because they've opted to shoot the first episode (a) outside and (b) at noon, which is never flattering. Also, it's unpleasant to watch people squint that much.

Fourth, the geniuses behind this campaign don't seem to know that much about social media, because they've made the video clips of this "online episodic reality series" unembeddable, which completely defeats the point of doing an online-only campaign. Our guess? Someone at Scion or ATTIK said, "Oh, my kids were talking about the Facebooks yesterday. Social media must be hot! Let's do a social media campaign!" Then they recoiled at the idea of sharing their clips and letting them go viral -- which can't happen if they're not embeddable.

And we won't even begin to address the herd of elephants in the room, which is that none of the judges or contestants are real car designers. In one fell stroke, the producers have denigrated an entire profession, telling the viewing public that car design is just like riding a bike or making out or building a volcano from vinegar and baking soda: anyone can do it. At least the folks on Project Runway appreciate the training required to compete in their field.

If you're really intrigued, you can watch part one and part two of the first episode on YouTube. If not, we've posted a small, unsurprising spoiler below.*


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