February has arrived and with it comes the presentation of the Super Bowl, the great American sporting event. This fifty-fifth edition will take on a special cachet, however, because unlike last year at this time, when life was still fairly normal, nothing is very normal right now. The ongoing pandemic has forced everyone to review their way of doing things – and that includes automakers of course.
And tradition has those automakers spending boatloads of money to showcase their wares during the big game. Except that this year, several have chosen to take a pass, so to speak, and place their ad money elsewhere. Some have said that they didn't want to take any risks, given that six months ago no one could be quite certain there would even be a Super Bowl.
From the brave ones that are going to be present during commercial breaks, we can expect to see messages different in both substance and tone this year. In many cases, the message will be more important than any particular product. General Motors, for example, is producing an ad focused on its drive to electric mobility.
Toyota’s ad goes further, for it’s not about vehicles or automotive technologies at all. Rather, it stars an athlete, Jessica Long. Paralympian swimmer Jessica Long was born in Russia, and in her childhood suffered from a disease that resulted in the amputation of both of her lower legs. Long was also an orphan, and it was via adoption that she ended up in the United States. As a child growing up there, she took up swimming. In the ad, all of this is depicted through reconstructed sequences that intersect as we see Jessica Long doing what she does best - swimming.
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The young woman has competed in four Paralympic Games and won 23 medals, the second highest total among all American Paralympic athletes.
The ad ends with is a simple note indicating that Toyota is a sponsor of the U.S. Paralympic Team, and includes a general message of hope.
Toyota will also run a short public service announcement during the game, encouraging people to wear masks and take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Obviously, Toyota still wants to sell as many vehicles as possible, having regained the number-one position in the world in 2020 ahead of Volkswagen. However, it's all in the approach here and in the midst of the crisis, the emphasis on the human character is certainly a smart move. Good optics, even…