Toyota has been buying a ton of ad time promoting their Venza “crossover” SUV outside of the normal target demographic for this type of vehicle. Rather than aiming at young, childless couples, they’re now aiming at retiring boomers. Salon reasons that this move is a result of the economy hurting younger buyer’s spending power, while the agency that created the ads preformed research that “reveal that active boomers are willing to spend on things that bring them self-fulfillment; are exploring interests and activities that promote personal growth and evolution in the interest of staying young, flexible and relevant.” What I find striking is the contempt with which the boomers’ children are portrayed:
In the first ad, scenes of energetic, smiling boomers on a mountain biking adventure are voiced over by their slightly neurotic daughter who is disparaging their lack of Facebook friends. In the second ad, a more self-centered daughter is obsessing over her parents’ well-being after they move across the country, leaving her to wonder “what do they do all day, without me there?” In the third ad, a suited son explains that he moved back to his parents’ house after college because he was “worried about them”, especially since his mom went to bed without making him dinner.
Assuming the ad agency is behaving logically, how does portraying boomers’ children as clueless self-centered babies “promote personal growth and evolution in the interest of staying young, flexible and relevant”? Two possibilities come to mind:
- Boomers like to be shown to be enlightened, exciting, and “relevant”, but they don’t know what those things are unless they are shown juxtaposed with something they believe to be the opposite, namely their own selfish children.
- These ads were created by 22-year-olds, and this is how they believe they’re perceived by their parents, so this was an honest attempt to communicate with them.
One thing is certain: this campaign is risky. Will boomers respond to ads that portray their kids as selfish losers, and themselves as youthful wannabes? Will anything increase the Verza’s flagging sales?