Lexus highlights dark side to build interest in new hybrid

Lexus aims to reach a new, younger consumer with an integrated prelaunch campaign for its CT 200h hybrid, slated to roll out in the US in 2011.

Company: Lexus US
Campaign: "The Darker Side of Green"
Agency mix: Lime PR, Varick Media Management, The Media Kitchen, Team One, Skinny, Stink Digital, Attik
Lead agency: Lime PR
In-house team: Nancy Hubbell, prestige communications manager; David Nordstrom, VP of marketing; Brian Bolain, national marketing and lifecycle strategy manager

Lexus aims to reach a new, younger consumer with an integrated prelaunch campaign for its CT 200h hybrid, slated to roll out in the US in 2011. The theme, "The Darker Side of Green," melds an online film, interactive Web platform, promotional partnership program, and traditional ad components.

Nancy Hubbell, prestige communications manager at Lexus, says, "It's a new audience with us, so we had to reach out early and often. And we had to do it without cars. Integration made sense."

Of the "darker" theme, she says, "The last campaign was bright and happy. The idea for the CT is to really introduce an edgier, more dramatic sense."

On May 13, the team launched Dark Ride, a 12.5-minute interactive film designed to be a game-like virtual test drive, at Users with a microphone can record lines, insert a Facebook profile photo, and choose an adventure.

"It's not the Lexus you might have perceived, nor is it what you think of a hybrid, so we want to get people interacting with the new car," says Hubbell. "The film is part of a big integrated campaign rolling out in phases."

To coincide with the film, the team partnered with companies in key markets - New York, Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles - to distribute branded cards offering local discounts and promotions. Brand partners such as eco-fashion designer Linda Loudermilk and jewelry designer Alex Woo are expected to create limited edition items for the cardholders.

The program is meant to drive users back to the website, where they can activate the cards, and provide promotional opportunities through the partners' social media channels, explains Claudia Strauss, president of Lime PR, the firm leading the campaign.

"It's creating a great amount of branding opportunities in unexpected ways," she says.

On April 1, the team unveiled a Dark Ride film trailer at the New York International Auto Show, seeded the video on YouTube, and placed the trailer at movie theatres.

Tactical elements also include e-mail marketing, digital and out-of-home advertising, events, targeted media relations, and additional ads set to roll out in Q4.

"This is a learning opportunity," says Hubbell. "The digital stuff will be carried over into what we do when we launch the vehicle."

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