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Video: Toyota Auris Hybrid Takes Test Driving To The Web

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2011 Toyota Auris Hybrid - European model

2011 Toyota Auris Hybrid - European model

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Debuting a new car is tricky business: timing and placement is everything.

Traditionally, launches have taken place at major auto shows, accompanied by dry ice, booming techno, and saucy, sexy dancers. But over the past couple of years, we've seen models making grand entrances on Facebook and other websites, and, as we saw Ford do for the Fiesta, via the heady combination of tastemakers and social media. Now, Toyota has done something even more challenging to herald the arrival of the 2011 Toyota Auris Hybrid.

Lots of folks in Germany are eagerly to see the new Auris. Toyota wanted to leverage that anticipation and crank up the chatter, but there was one big problem: the Auris won't roll into showrooms until this September. The company could've handled that obstacle in any number of conventional ways, but the one they chose was decidedly out of the box.

Toyota teamed up with Saatchi & Saatchi's German outpost to create a web campaign that allowed anyone with a computer, webcam, and printer to drive the Auris right on their desk -- or on the floor, or in mid-air. Toyota fans simply paid a visit to the Auris microsite, printed out a handful of markers (similar to QR codes), and placed them in front of their webcam. They then pressed the car's virtual "start" button, and voila: a virtual Auris began scooting around the screen, interacting with the markers. The campaign was billed as the World's Cleanest Test Drive -- which was not altogether a bad idea for a hybrid.

As an added bonus, the Saatchi-designed website offered users the chance to record their test drives and share the clips on social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook, as well as the Auris microsite. To up the ante, Toyota launched a competition for the most innovative video, with the winner receiving a super-deluxe home entertainment system. You can see some of the entries right over here.

On the surface, this may look a little like a standard "upload your awesome video" campaign, but in fact, it's a little different. By allowing people to conduct test drives anywhere they like, the competition seems a little more -- dare we say it? -- egalitarian. (Well, egalitarian for those with cameras, printers, and webcams.) And even though the videos don't really count as "test drives", they do manage to keep the focus on the car itself, rather than on the people driving them. From an awareness angle, that's not a bad idea.

If you're curious to see how this played out in reality, here's the wrap-up brief from Saatchi & Saatchi:

* * * * *

Toyota Auris Hybrid Augmented Reality. The cleanest test drive ever.

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, Düsseldorf, Germany
Executive Creative Director: Stephan Zilges
Creative Directors: Michael Lorscheider, Martin van den Hoogen, Marco Obermann
Art Directors: Björn Brzeske, Frank Olma, Concetta Milione
Copywriter: Martin Cornet, Juliane Blersch
Animation: North Kingdom Account: Mathias Kossmann, Sandra Lipinski
Programming: Sebastian Staats, Roman Hippler, Anthony Collins, David Ochmann, Christoph van Daele

[YouTube]

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