Toyota captures millennial attention with "You Don't Own Me"

Once an anthem for the feminist movement, the classic tune is helping Corolla connect with young drivers, according to Ace Metrix

"You Don’t Own Me" was recorded by Lesley Gore in 1963. With its timeless lyrics of empowerment, the song later became a theme for the feminist movement and, even later, it was used in an anti-Republican PSA during the 2012 election. It hardly seems like Toyota is taking a political stance by using the song in their 2017 Corolla ad, but rather, trying to deliver an anthem to a generation of car buyers. That said, within our current environment and presidential candidate storylines, it’s hard not to interpret such a song as political. We’ll put that aside for the purpose of this column, and focus on how these lyrics resonate with modern day Millennials:

"I'm young and I love to be young. I'm free and I love to be free."

The ad features young people triumphantly, you might even say defiantly, singing along to the song as they go about various activities like bonfires, group bike rides, and roller derby contests. Created by Saatchi & Saatchi LA, the ad’s best performance is among 21- to 35-year-olds, and interestingly displays stronger Desire and Relevance scores among males in that age group. The ad’s performance with this group is quite similar to another recent non-luxury auto spot, Jeep’s "Free to Be," which debuted during the first presidential debate. Jeep’s inspiring message of unification also features a song that came out before Millennials were born, Cat Steven’s 1971 "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out." With these lyrics, "Well, if you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to be free, be free", it stands to reason that freedom of expression is important to this group.

The Ad Personalities below illustrate the relative strengths of each ad among this audience. We see the importance of ads being relatable to this group. For both ads, these viewers named the Visuals the Single Best Thing about the Ad, followed by the Music, which helped drive Attention and Desire. While Information wasn’t high relative to the other measures, that’s not to say features were lost in translation.

  • "I really enjoyed this ad. It speaks to me and my generation, and I love the technical features available in the car, as well as the look and brand and all else of this vehicle. It has made me actually consider a Corolla over a Camry (I am used to driving the Toyota Camry’s and have done so for years). Great job!" (M21-35)

Ad Personality, Toyota "You Don’t Own Me" (21-35)  Jeep "Free to Be" (21-35)            

Toyota’s ad also evoked overwhelmingly positive emotion from Millennials, with nearly 90% of their emotional comments containing words like "love," "amazing," and "cool."  Better news for the brand, nearly 70% of those comments came from auto intenders aged 21 to 35, who plan to purchase or lease a new car within six to 12 months:

  • "Car is really cool. I want one." (F21-35)

  • "The ad was a definite attention grabber. It was catchy and would make you want to watch it again." (F21-35)

  • "Amazing music and mix up of storied for Toyota like how its good for day to day life." (M21-35)

Reaching this highly valuable, growing audience with messages they find relevant is not easy. We see one recurring approach that works is using popular songs that contain evocative themes. It’s not just in the automotive category that we see this. Recently, Walmart’s back-to-school ad, "Own the First Day," featuring Whitesnake’s 1982 hit "Here I Go Again," saw success with this audience. "I can relate to back to school shopping, and it was an adorable ad. Overall, I really liked it," said one woman, 21 to 35. Coca-Cola’s "Under Pressure" from earlier this year used a 1981 David Bowie song to connect with this group. The spot was also effective at driving Desire and Relevance. Though more focused on the life of teenagers, 21- to 35-year-olds are not so far removed that they can’t relate:

  • "This Coca-Cola ad is awesome. Not only does it feature the late David Bowie's music, the characters feel relatable. Everyone knows what it's like to be stressed by schoolwork. Everyone knows what it's like to kick back with a soda. To me, this ad is saying that being a young person can be stressful, and Coca-Cola is an always-present product that can help give you confidence." (F21-35)

  • "Great advertisement, its a keeper, good solid message." (M21-35)

  • "I liked the stories that they linked together regarding pressure and things that usually make people uncomfortable. The music choice was also excellent." (F21-35)

There are many more examples in our database of such ads, but for now, kudos to Toyota for delivering something impressive. Way to own it.

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