While they’d probably like to say that their success in Kiwi showrooms is all down to the standard of the products, it’s hard not to acknowledge that Toyota New Zealand has also enjoyed success here due to stacks of incredible ad campaigns.
Few car companies can boast campaigns that have shaped local dialect and got as many tongues wagging as Toyota has, all the way back to the famous Barry Crump Hilux adverts from way back when. In light of the firm’s recent new Hilux ad (which itself is a funny watch), we thought we’d dig into the YouTube archives and rank our 10 favourite local Toyota ads to date. Bugger me what a list it is.
10. Happy Together — Toyota RAV4
We start with one of the most controversial Toyota NZ ad campaigns in history. In the mid-noughties the firm released this Mr & Mrs Smith–style ad showing a couple willing to do anything to get behind the wheel of their new RAV4 — down to rigging a flamethrower in the wardrobe, to electrifying the shower, to literally blowing up the entire house. All to the catchy tune; Happy Together by The Turtles.
It makes sense why this ad immediately drew ire from audiences. On its first night on television the Advertising Standards Authority copped 17 complaints from viewers, some noting that it could encourage kids to do similar things to others.
9. 15-years-old — Toyota Racing Series
One of Toyota’s best-kept local secrets is the Toyota Racing Series. While it’s been hit by Covid-19 this year, ordinarily it’s our country’s own little slice of Formula 1 — with a big chunk of the world’s best young drivers flocking to compete in it each year. Three TRS graduates compete in F1 currently, with another joining the grid in 2021.
One of the few pieces of mainstream marketing Toyota New Zealand has done for the series is this ad; an incredibly slick, well put together advert detailing the FT-50 racer used at the time and the challenges young drivers face.
8. Welcome to our world — Full Toyota NZ line-up
It’s not necessarily a grand watch for the car mad, but jeez it conjures strong pangs of nostalgia. First debuting in 1989, Toyota’s ‘Welcome to Our World’ campaign featured some of the most glorious shots of New Zealand’s incredible landscape, set to the dulcet tones of country singer John Grenell and directed by the legendary Geoff Dixon.
Ironically this version was made for the 1995 America’s Cup — an event Toyota still supports today. The song itself briefly topped New Zealand’s music charts as a result of the ad’s popularity.
7. Bulls — Toyota Hilux
The first of a bunch of Hilux ads, Toyota’s first local ad for the seventh-gen Hilux showed the farm animals getting one back on their farmer masters — a couple of horny old bulls stealing a Hilux for a joyride to meet up with a few cows. Apart from implying the mental image of two bulls and two cows getting freaky in Hilux’s relatively tight confines, it also ensured that “sheep shagger” would become a school-yard taunt around the country.
6. Pied Piper — Toyota Echo
Here to show us that human-on-human attempted murder a la the RAV4 commercial is bad, but car-on-car literal murder is … cute (?) comes an ad that drilled freely into my brain as a child to plant Crispian St Peters’ ‘The Pied Piper’ as an earworm I still hum today. How good is that Proton Saga, nine seconds in?
5. Lost keys — Toyota Corolla
There’s something so uniquely and self-deprecatingly Kiwi about a punchline that involves a nationwide manhunt for one hapless person’s Corolla car keys. For something as ubiquitous as a Corolla no less. The ‘Yeah, nah’ at the end is the icing on the cake.
4. Proven — Toyota Hilux
How do you show that a vehicle is to be trusted? Well, I guess you show that the owners are trustworthy too. Kiwis love a great yarn, but this also means we love sprinkling a little ‘creative license’ on said stories. Enter the tale so tall and so unbelievable, yet somehow also a tale that’s true. Earlier this year Toyota New Zealand wheeled out its full-scale replica of the armoured rocket-launcher rhinoceros at the launch of the new Hilux. It was terrifying.
3. Bugger — Toyota Hilux
This late 1990s gem saw ‘bugger’ become part of the national vernacular (to the point where it divided schools, who weren’t sure whether it was inappropriate lunchtime playground lingo or not). Along with a surprisingly subtle punchline, it’s an ad that features more of that familiar self deprecation — something the Aussie attempt at ‘Bugger’ couldn’t pull off.
To top it all off, a quick Carjam search reveals that the 1998 Hilux in the ad is still on the road today.
2. Crump — Toyota Hilux
Well, duh. Of course this advert, featuring the legendary, gruff, velvet-voiced late Barry Crump and so-called city slicker ‘Scotty’ (Lloyd Scott) was bound to feature at the pointy end. More than simply being endlessly quotable (“Hang on a bit up here mate, she gets a bit bumpy”), the whole extended 12-year Crump / Toyota campaign played a part in the construction of the ‘quintessential Kiwi male’ stereotype — such was its impact.
Subsequent Barry and Scotty ads featured the fourth-gen 4×4 getting muddy, then later whisking Barry through the city streets in its 2WD variant in a case of Scotty revenge. I’ve also got a soft spot for the ‘Poem’ Crump ad.
1. Everyday People — Full Toyota NZ line-up
It admittedly doesn’t have the same instantly recognisable aura as the Crump or Bugger commercials, but I’d argue that Toyota NZ’s ‘Everyday People’ adverts of the mid to late 1990s had a greater impact than any single Hilux ad spot when it came to giving Toyota the crown it enjoys today as the brand most synonymous with New Zealand.
Unlike the flashy, aspirational, American-styled adverts Toyota had run in the early ‘90s (with exception to the Hilux stuff), like the high-budget ‘Start it Up’ campaign, there was something distinctly Kiwi about all the ‘Everyday People’ adverts. For once, the cars weren’t the stars — everyday Kiwis were. A masterstroke.