Hilux ad pulled after global thumbs down

Kiwis didn’t seem to mind it so much, but the international response was damning – so Toyota NZ has killed the television/internet ‘Call of the Wild’ ad central to the sales campaign for the new Hilux. Where to now?


WHETHER any elements of a big budget advertising campaign for Hilux can be recycled or the whole thing will be junked and a fresh pitch considered is probably a pressing issue for Toyota New Zealand, a spokesman has conceded.

This is among comments following the Palmerston North-headquartered market leader’s determination to abruptly terminate the ‘Call of the Wild’ television campaign.

The decision to drop the quirky spot is in reaction to what it says has been adverse global response to its bloodsport theme.

Hours after Toyota New Zealand announced the ad was dead, the brand’s public relations’ spokesman Morgan Dilks has told Motoring Network he did not know whether any elements – notably the print element which included full-page ads running the text of the ‘ode’ uttered by the animals – will continue, but imagined that will be the subject of discussion “within the next day or so.”

“I guess we will be regrouping on Monday (today) to discuss things like that. We’ve said that we have stopped screening the television commercial ... that’s the primary decision and then we’ll be working through … other aspects, I guess.”

Asked if this meant TNZ will have to start wholly afresh with another campaign for the new truck, one of its most important products, he replied: “Yet to be discussed.”

Featuring anthropomorphic animal “actors” poetically waxing in turn a Shakespearean-ish ode to the new ute taking them to their Valhalla, the lavish Saatchi and Saatchi-made ad was the subject of a Motor Network exclusive published on December 15.

The campaign launched in controversial circumstances in New Zealand – debuting on November 22, the same night, in a common time zone, as Television New Zealand’s high-ratings Sunday show ran as its feature story a hard-hitting documentary about the brutal treatment of young calves here.

While TNZ was seemingly able to weather any reflected association with that, it has indicated it could not withstand an apparent tidal wave of negative comment from overseas, as result of the pitch having gone viral.

At 1pm yesterday (December 20, NZT) TNZ advised it would stop screening the ad on television and the internet immediately.

Toyota New Zealand Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Alistair Davis – who Saatchi and Saatchi had previously indicated was enthusiastic about the ad’s premise – acknowledged his decision reflected the feedback “from members of the public that the ad has unintentionally offended.”

TNZ apologised “unreservedly for any offense we have caused. We’ve listened and we’ll stop screening the ad. 

 “The public and in particular Toyota’s customers are the cornerstone of our business and we’ve been closely monitoring the ad’s response and felt the groundswell of detractors was growing. 

 “We’ve taken their feedback seriously and appreciate the frankness in which our critics have disclosed their comments to us.” 

Davis said the audience “we were hoping to positively engage with this story is unlikely in our view to share the opinions of those we have offended, and are likely to see the ad as being a computer generated exaggeration of real life meant to be amusing rather than shocking. 

 “That was unquestionably how we envisioned the advertisement being received.

“However, some viewers are genuinely worried about the message the advertisement sends, and so for that reason we have decided to stop screening it,” Davis said.

 TNZ has a history of using animals in amusing situations as part of its advertising campaigns and the company always ensures its ads are filmed responsibly.

 While reinforcing that “absolutely no real animal images” were used in the advertisement – everything was rendered in CGI – it says the animals portrayed are regularly and sustainably hunted and fished except for the possum, which is a familiar pest.

 The brand also pointed out that TNZ is committed to the protection of the environment and wildlife and has ongoing partnerships with several organisations in New Zealand to work towards a sustainable future.

 The New Zealand Commercial Advertising Bureau gave the ad a rating of PGR (parental guidance recommended).  The advertisement was designed to comply with the Advertising Standards Authority, Toyota says.

Dilks said the killer blow to the ad was “feedback from the global audience ... which was negative.” Much moreso that the NZ domestic response, he said.

“Initially when we launched the ad we did so on Facebook and, initially the feedback, because it was local, was predominantly positive.

“The ad was made to target a New Zealand audience and one that was in line with our traditional Hilux target market. When the ad widened out to a global audience – which happens really easily through social media now – that’s when it wasn’t that favourable with certain groups.

“I think the hunting and fishing culture in New Zealand, and the role it plays in everyday life, obviously isn’t reflected in other countries and cultures.”

Dilks said he could not comment on the production costs associated with the ad, which at 90 seconds was one of the longest shown on national television this year.