Screencap from the Lexus 'Dark Ride' microsite for the CT200hEnlarge Photo
We love our jobs. Really. Mostly. But every so often, we're obligated to take a metaphorical bullet in the service of keeping you informed. This is one of those times.
Seriously, you guys owe us a Coke.
The bullet in question comes courtesy of Lexus, which continues to pump the whole "Dark Side of Green" thing in advance of the CT 200h launch. It takes the form of a special microsite called Lexus Dark Ride, which centers around a somewhat interactive feature that combines one high-energy car-chase movie (like those we've seen from BMW, Audi, and others), two sleep-deprived actors fit for supporting roles in a David Lynch oeuvre, some high-bandwidth video, and our own moderate bandwidth connection. The result? Twenty minutes have been stolen from our lives, and we will never, ever get them back.
The feature starts by trying to connect to your Facebook account so you can share the "Dark Side of Green" experience with friends. Fortunately, we opted out, because if we hadn't, we'd be down a few friends by now. Then you're spoken to by a woman who looks like she might be the cashier at a fast-food drive-through in Bladerunner. Things go rapidly downhill.
The plot of the movie is pretty simple: you're some kind of escort (probably not the illegal kind, though it's never really explained) who needs to get a CT 200h back to homebase in downtown LA before sunrise. At least that's the premise. In actuality, you do very little escorting and a whole lot of sitting, watching the "BUFFERING" icon go round and round.
We won't go into much more detail -- why spoil the surprise? -- but if you remember those "choose your own adventure" books from when you were a kid, you get the idea. Being the brats that we are, we let the game make decisions for us, and things turned out just fine, so you really don't have to do anything apart from watching and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. (Did we mention that it's really slow?) At the end, you're given another chance to share the site with Facebook pals and Twitter followers. You can also learn more about the CT 200h, sign up for pre-launch event notices, download some of the tunes played in the clip, and register to win a CT 200h of your very own.
Despite our not-so-kind feelings toward this particular marketing campaign, we admit that the movie is well made, and that the CT 200h looks pretty good in it (even though our colleagues at MotorAuthority and GreenCarReports aren't impressed with its hybrid credentials). True, the microsite isn't dramatically different from anything other luxe automakers are doing, but then, that's probably the point. Playing up the "Dark Side" of green is an attempt to (re)brand Lexus -- or at least the CT 200h -- as a bad boy ride. And if a clunky ad campaign is what it takes to do that, well: mission accomplished.
P.S. If you're interested in the CT 200h but don't want to sit through the Lexus Dark Ride experience, here's a trailer that, like most trailers, is even better than the real thing.