In Toyota’s latest ad for the raucous GR Corolla, a cameo by a 1970 KE10 almost threatens to steal the show. Not only that, but there are several references to past Toyota commercials, some obscure enough that only Toyota nerds will catch them.
Called “The Shoot”, it stars the same four characters we’ve (sadly) come to know from past ads for the GR Supra and GR86. Two hip marketers that are ostensibly car enthusiasts are blocked at every turn by two unhip corporate types that don’t get cars at all. The same cast has appeared in “The Pitch” for the GR Supra and “Focus Group” for the GR86. Here, the cool ad-makers place the GR Corolla in a variety of settings — wild west, snow-covered rally stage, Warner Bros studio lot — to show off what the car can do, only to once again have the execs pooh-pooh their ideas.
Problem is, the marketers don’t speak car enthusiast at all. Do the real creators of this ad (not the actors playing them) think yelling things like “360 drift!” is how petrolheads talk? Is that what we want to know about the GR Corolla, arguably the purest non-truck Toyota performance model to debut in a human generation? Also, it seems as if they’re trying to wink-wink to the youths by saying Toyota is a company run by out-of-touch suits. Insert Thinking Face emoji. The whole enterprise strongly emits Steve Buscemi’s iconic “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibe.
Then one of the marketers introduces the concept of a “sleeper”, which turns out to be an admittedly clever callback to an older Corolla commercial. It features a woman with a broken-down Corolla on a desolate road, but the kicker is it turns out to be a trap because Toyotas never break down. It’s an ad that’s been recreated for multiple markets, sometimes hilariously poorly. However, in the decades that we’ve been into cars the term “sleeper” has always meant a stock or slow-looking car that’s actually packing more power than it appears, meant to lull opponents into a false sense of confidence in races. Admittedly I’m pretty old myself so if the kids are using sleeper in some newfangled way to mean “old lady that turns out to be Ryan Tuerck,” I’ll stand corrected.
Incidentally, the first-gen featured appears to be the exact same car we drove in 2016 to honor the 50th anniversary of the Corolla. It was an awesome car on every level, but if the creators think it’s even remotely possible that a 60-horsepower, rear-wheel-drive KE10 can keep up with a 300-horsepower, AWD rally monster on a dirt road, they’re nuts.
What irked us the most though is that they kept referring to the KE10 as a “Seventies Corolla”. While technically a 1970 model, the KE10 is decidedly a 1960s car, launched in 1966 and ending production in the first year of the 70s. The idea was to let the audience know Corollas have been around a long time, right? There are three whole generations of Corolla that any Toyota enthusiast immediately visualizes when someone says “Seventies Corolla” and none of them are the E10.
The GR Corolla is an exciting car and it deserves a good campaign. Thankfully, Toyota says this is the last of the series featuring the marketers and execs. There have been other GR Corolla ads that makes enthusiasts feel represented (though it seems they’ve been taken down) so we know Toyota is capable of good ads. Next time, just let Ryan Tuerck do the whole thing.