Ed Driscoll

The "Swagger Wagon" -- The Perfect Toyota To Go Shark Jumping In

For a time, I thought Toyota would emerge relatively unscathed from its recent recall, despite the best efforts of the DC-based board of Government Motors to screw their competition. If only because, unlike GM, Toyota has earned a fair amount of good will from its loyal customer base. But that was before I saw this:

[flashvideo file=http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/files/2013/01/2010_toyota_swagger_wagon_ad_1-14-13.flv image=http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/files/2013/01/swagger_wagon_title_card_1-4-13.jpg /]

The horror. The horror.

Where to begin? I was alerted to this ad campaign via a comment yesterday from James Lileks on Twitter:

I’m taking up a collection to hire a hit man to deal with the Douche Family in that Toyota “Swagger Wagon” Sienna ad. Anyone in?

Let me think about it.


OK, where do I sign?

You’ll note that the first clip was recorded by someone holding a camcorder in front of his TiVo-equipped TV. [Update: Replaced by better quality clip — Ed. Late Update: See below.] The second, much higher-res clip is part of a whole series of viral videos that Toyota commissioned featuring this staggeringly self-absorbed couple, featuring the castrated comic relief “male” now ubiquitous in television advertising. But the official version of the “swagger wagon” ad is now apparently behind a permission-required firewall on YouTube, perhaps because of the intense negative reaction to having a Toyota minivan called — shudder — the “Swagger Wagon.”

Toyota’s ad campaign makes Audi’s Green Police ad look as though it was created by Don Draper on one of his best days at the office. In contrast, taken as a whole, the Toyota campaign very much reminded me of Microsoft’s viral efforts last fall to sell Windows 7, featuring another group of people so happy, shiny and Up With People pathetic that they had to be a parody that the ad team hoped would go viral simply out of the sheer camp involved. And they’re in sharp contrast to Toyota’s hip, confident advertising efforts down under.

One blogger described the Toyota Sienna ads as a maximum overload of meta:

And there is a lot of thinking.  You’re not boring, you’re cool. But you know you’re not really cool. You laugh at yourself. But also at everybody else.


Toyota has covered every psychological angle.  On the YouTube campaign page, they even call the couple “self-absorbed,” in case anybody is annoyed by cloyingly likable people.

We’re living in a post Arrested Development world people. (Which if you want to get meta, is a post-Office world).  Which if you want to get meta-meta, is a Toyota Sienna world…

Include me out, please. (Though I realize that by trashing these ads, I’m helping to push them out, just adding to the whole meta overload. But then, I reject Toyota’s “reality”, and substitute my — hopefully more earthbound — own.)

Twenty years ago, if one associated the words “swagger” and “wagon” with Toyota, this is what would have come to mind:

These days, there’s this:

And in the process of trying sell it, Toyota has found a novel way to also eliminate the problems they’re having with “unintended acceleration:” they’ve gotten the shoe off the gas pedal by shooting themselves square in the foot.

Late Update: Both videos in the above clip were eventually pulled from YouTube. I’m not sure if that’s due to Toyota’s influence or not, but I think the second clip is the same one that was originally here, but uploaded by a different YouTube user. (It certainly makes the point about the lameness of the TV dad in the commercial, in any case. The first clip I had downloaded to my archives, and I’m uploading it to this post to replace the now missing original clip.

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