An ad within an ad, within an ad

Who has seen the latest Toyota advert? (See above, if not)

I first came across this in the ad breaks of Once Upon A Time on Demand 5. As anyone who watches TV on demand will know, the ad breaks are even more annoying than usual, because the same 3 commercials are played in every single break. You are forced to watch those excruciating 30 seconds four times in total during an hour long show.

But you know what? I didn’t mind watching this one, because it was just complex enough subvert the expectation of the dumbed down part of my brain, which I reserve especially for tuning out advertisements of all kinds. Something new occurred to me each time I was forced to watch it. The first viewing forced me to switch off ‘dumbed down mode’ and tune into my active, interested brain. In other words, it grabbed my attention. The second time round, I paid attention to the voiceover and the base level premise behind the ad; the concept of real. During the third showing, I picked up on the choice of song and by the fourth, I was appreciating the ‘Real Deal’ ad as a composite of popular film references, each an example of another reality.

Much like one of the films referenced, Inception, (note the blatant, even intrusive, use of Edith Piaf’s Non, je ne regrette rien), this Toyota ad is a layer cake of stories. Initially, the story is about The Matrix; a man is imprisoned in a grey, ordered city, reflecting on “pixels” and “pretence”. The girl on the phone that he passes while driving along might even make us think of the route in and out of the Matrix, via telephone lines. Much as the brightly coloured burger alludes to the Judas scene in which Cypher reveals to Agent Smith that he knows “the Matrix is telling [his] brain that [the steak] is juicy and delicious”. Our Toyota ad protagonist even looks a little bit like Neo and certainly dresses like his trapped alter-ego Mr Anderson.

The red Toyota is then revealed to us, accompanied by the music, which in Inception acts as ‘the kick’ or the catalyst to waking from and exiting a dream. So we, the viewers, associate the car with the journey to reality out of a dream world. As with any good blockbuster, we have the obligatory car chase and of course, it is a car ad, so we have to see what it can do (even if it is in CGI).

The final part of the commercial is the story of The Truman Show. Right at the end of the film, Truman sails to the end of the earth, or at least to the boundaries of his world, which is a world that has been created for the TV show of which he is unwittingly the star. The difference here is that the star of this show, the Toyota, allows our man to break free of the fake world and enter the real world.

I think the thing that I like about this advert the most is the fact that Saatchi and Saatchi has actually given it some serious thought, come up with a big idea and crafted a compelling story. I’m not sure whether I fit Toyota’s target audience, but it certainly resonated with me. I was engaged and this car manufacturer has earned brand plus points in my eyes. What do you think?

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