Toyota Makes A Bigger Splash

Toyota Makes A Bigger Splash


Toyota’s Tokyo Olympics began with controversy: the Japanese car giant’s executives announced they would not be attending the opening ceremony, citing public concern over the games. But away from home, the brand’s advertising has caught the imagination of viewers. That’s especially the case in the US, where Toyota’s ad starring Paralympian swimmer Jessica Long has been met with a rapturous social media reception.

What’s interesting about the ad is that it wasn’t made specially for the Games, even though it stars one of Team USA’s top athletes. It’s a six month old commercial that made its debut at the Super Bowl earlier this year, and is now back on screens for the Olympics themselves. The ad’s theme of family support and realising your dreams works for any sporting event, and introducing a mass audience to Jessica’s story at the big game has surely helped the ad’s impact now.

Long was adopted as a baby, and the ad dramatises the phone call between her new family and the adoption agency, as the adoption worker tells Jessica’s mom that due to a rare condition, the baby will need both its legs amputated. It’s a sad moment resolved with happiness as the mother’s enthusiasm and love for her new daughter shines through.

What makes Toyota’s ad unique is the effects. Saatchi & Saatchi had to make their ad with Covid filming restrictions in place, but the restriction gave them the opportunity to make something very distinctive. Every scene is waterlogged, with rooms in the children’s hospital and the Long family home transformed into the edges of swimming pools, and letting the adult Jessica act as a spectator at the beginning of her own story. The result is something that hits a lot deeper than the average sports ad, with a magical and surreal tone mixed with the intimacy of the story.

Of all the Olympic ads we’ve tested in the US, Toyota’s is our star performer, with an exceptional 5.1 Star Rating and strong short term Spike potential too. It’s particularly impressive that it stars a Paralympic athlete, proving once again that brands who shy away from the Paralympics are making a serious commercial error. And whatever the reasons behind the decision to reuse the Super Bowl ad for the Games, it was clearly the right choice – the new context turns an already strong ad into an excellent one.



Creative agency credit: Saatchi & Saatchi.