Lexus has announced plans to roll out a system that will allow the company to send audio messages to its cars, which most people immediately realized meant we should get ready for spam in our cars. It's pretty obvious that's what Lexus is thinking when it says things like: "messages can be highly targeted, such as tailored for those who have a specific vehicle type or who live in a particular ZIP code." However, the company is obviously sensitive to the spam issue, saying that "We're not going to barrage customers with marketing messages," and noting that some may not want this: "Many of our owners enjoy their car as a cocoon." The whole thing sounds like a trial balloon idea to see how people react, and so far it doesn't sound good. You could see some potentially useful situation -- such as in the event of a recall, but the likelihood of someone in marketing getting a "brilliant idea" for some extra revenue and pissing off a lot of people just seems too high.
So, we were a little confused recently when Toyota sued a nude model for using the name Alexus, as it seemed difficult to believe there would be any "confusion" between the two. However, who knew that Lexus was getting into the entertainment business? We've talked in the past about BMW's famous BMW Films effort, as an example of how the future of advertising needs to recognize the blurring lines between content and advertising. In BMW's case, each film was directed by a famous filmmaker, starred actor Clive Owen, and included a BMW that tended to act as something of a co-star. The films were entertaining as pure content, rather than as traditional advertising.
Since then, we've seen plenty of other companies try similar things, with varying degrees of success. For example, the recent set of Microsoft ads involving Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates received a very mixed reaction -- in part because people expected them to be like traditional ads, pitching a specific product, rather than creating a story line that was entertaining in its own right.
Now, one of our readers, William Jackson, points us to an experiment apparently by the car company, Lexus (a part of Toyota). It's called L Studio, and appears to be something of a web video platform, showing a bunch of professionally produced videos. As Jackson notes, some of them do involve a Lexus, such as this documentary about an artist creating a piece of artwork out of a Lexus:
However, others seem to have absolutely nothing to do with Lexus automobiles at all, and often star recognizable actors, such as this video starring Famke Janssen trying to juggle her dating life with her dog:
I'm sure some will complain that these sorts of videos don't make any sense, as they do nothing to promote the vehicles -- but it may be worth seeing where this campaign goes from here. Some of the videos are entertaining and help put Lexus' brand around "lifestyle" content, and that could get people to start associating the Lexus brand with a certain type of lifestyle. Sure, it might not be as "in your face" as sponsoring a TV show or doing product placement, but if the content is good and gets people to seek it out rather than intrude on what they're doing, this could be a very effective branding campaign.