Leave it to the Muppets to blow up the tired Super Bowl advertising cliche of talking babies, dogs, and bikini-clad women.
Perhaps one of the more ingenious advertising campaigns for Super Bowl XLVIII is one that will take viewers of the big game on a virtual ride and let them interact with a brand in a different and entertaining way.
The Muppets have climbed behind the wheel of the new Toyota Highlander for a road trip of misadventure to New Jersey and have invited all of us to come along. They’ll live-Tweet during the game using the @Toyota Twitter account and the #NoRoomForBoring hashtag.
This is exponentially more than just a piece of social media entertainment. It’s actually part of a well-orchestrated and highly strategic effort on behalf of Toyota and its agency Saatchi & Saatchi to build awareness and market share for Toyota’s newly remodeled Highlander SUV. The live-Tweeting coincides with a new commercial that will air during the game featuring the Muppets and former NLF star Terry Crews.
The campaign is strategic because it zeroes in like a laser beam on a specific target audience: busy, chaotic, upwardly mobile families. Metaphorically, no family exemplifies that target audience more than the Muppets—America’s very definition of loveable dysfunction. Furthermore, the adventure they drive Terry Crews through is the archetype of the great American family vacation, foibles and all. The key branding message is that the new Highlander has room inside for everything but boredom.
Even the live-Tweeting during the game is no accident. It fills what marketers now call “the space in-between” traditional and digital advertising. In other words, allowing the consumer to customize their own brand experience—in this case interacting with the Muppets in social space. Wisely, Toyota has even re-branded its Twitter page and its Highlander website with the Muppets so that consumers are given a consistent message with every interactive touch point. (Figure 1)
In this regard, it’s a smart way to help Toyota differentiate itself from the other Super Bowl car advertisers by engaging viewers on multiple channels at the same time. The Muppet’s live-Tweets will make Toyota part of the conversation during what will be among the highest Twitter user events of the year. (24.1 million Tweets during Super Bowl XLVII) It’s also an effective way to ensure that Toyota is getting more for its $4 million ad buy.
It’s part of a new trend of what I call fake-celebrity endorsements. Comic Will Ferrell created this new genre with the highly successful Ron Burgundy commercials for the Dodge Durango. It was all part of a highly integrated campaign to not only sell Dodges, but to cross-promote the new Ron Burgundy Anchorman movie. Likewise, the Disney and the Muppets are using the same kind of cross-promotion for its new movie opening in March.
Toyota hopes it sells Highlanders, too. For the rest of us, it’s a fun and new way to experience the Sferndy Boom—or whatever you call it.