Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The Apology Ad

My first car was a Toyota, a hand-me-down Celica from my Dad. It wasn't mine for very long before I fell asleep at the wheel and rolled it on I-5 in San Diego early one morning. I promptly replaced it with another used Celica, this one a little newer and with one more gear. Since then I've owned two more Toyotas and there's one in the driveway right now. I've been a loyalist I suppose, and have always trusted the company to make long-lasting, reliable vehicles. If I could afford to, I would pay way too much money to own one of the original Land Cruisers, before Land Cruiser got all snotty and shiny and became the preferred truck of snotty, shiny women carting their kids to school.

So now they're recalling how many cars? 8 million? And deaths can be attributed to some manufacturing flaws? How do you rebound from that? Toyota is all over the news in the most embarrassing way a manufacturer can be in the news, with many wondering if they'll ever recover from this blow. In Japan it is being seen as the prelude to the country's post-industrialization era. And while I agree with the company's policy of public apology, (very Japanese of them) I don't like this spot much. They want to "restore your faith in our company" says the voiceover guy who received the following direction: "We need you to sound like you're very sorry, like you're almost crying, like a married politician who got busted having an affair."

Nonetheless, I don't know how you could've done this ad better. They tell the story of a company with a heritage of quality that majorly fucked up and is now working like dogs to fix their fuck-ups and get out of the doghouse. Well, you might've given your voiceover guy a little less simpering wimp intonation and let him read it differently, but whatever, voiceover guys are a dime a dozen. They can easily replace the audio track. 

When you search Toyota on YouTube, you'll find the company has bought the top listing. Another wise move. And leave it to the YouTube comment "community" to let Toyota know how they feel:

"...you can not hide 20 deaths and call your product HIGH QUALITY."


"Remember Pearl Harbor!"

I can see a day when this bad season is behind Toyota and they are back in form, winning our trust again, but it's going to take something really awesome, like an electric car that goes 500 miles on a charge. Or a jetpack.

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