This month's Atlantic has some fine articles, including one about the Orange County Walmart I posted on a few months ago, but I'd like to bring up the advertisement on the back cover: "Toyota, We See Beyond Cars."
|From Toyota, Beyond Cars|
Toyota is using the same strategy here. The town depicted in this ad is probably as close as it gets to the idyllic American small town, the kind of place survey respondents have in mind when they constantly mark "small town" as an ideal living preference. There is a sharp boundary between the town and countryside, with three-story buildings running directly up to open forests and plains. The scale is small enough to be easily walkable, allowing each of the residents to have access to all town services as well as natural amenities on foot. The development is nestled right up to the hills with no mountaintop private estates (overlooking their fiefdom), and lush street trees blanket the town. All of this is symbolically envisioned through the lack of a Toyota Highlander smack in the middle of picture. Interesting.
Incidentally, I'm not sure where this picture is taken. The ad mentions Princeton, Indiana, where a Toyota factory is located (3 miles outside of), but the topography in the picture does not match Princeton. I would guess somewhere in Vermont or New Hampshire.
Here's a television commercial in the same campaign:
It also portrays the conspicuous absence of a vehicle set in an attractive American place. This downtown, like the previous place, was undoubtedly built during a time when "Ford" was what you did when you reached a river and didn't have a boat. Toyota would have been completely foreign to you. These kinds of places have slowly been withered away by businesses and homes that require ample parking ... in other words, in part at least, by Toyota. Yet Toyota knows its audience still wants this to be the kind of America we live in.
It's hard to tell what Toyota is doing with this. Are they signaling a wish, or at least an openness, to move beyond manufacturing cars to other forms of transportation? Or do they realize that most of us have no choice but to own a car, and they want to position themselves as the least-like-a-car car company on the market? The Mrs. and I do happen to own a Corolla, and until Toyota's vision of a nation beyond cars comes into being, we'll probably replace this one with another Corolla once we've driven it into the ground..