Toyota Product Placement

In 2014, Toyota was ranked “the most valuable automotive brand worldwide for the 11th straight year in Interbrand’s new ranking of the 100 Best Global Brands” (Buss, 2014). As a leading global brand, Toyota keeps its brand image and promotion as a top priority, spending a reported $US2.09 billion on advertising alone (Taube, 2014). Traditionally, the Toyota brand was perceived as sturdy, reliable and practical, however, on the verge of the release of the Matrix in 2002, Toyota sought to alter the consumer perception of the brand (Institute of Communication Agencies, 2003). Jez Frampton, global CEO of Interbrand, said that automakers have realised the need to “build strong brands for the future” and “reposition themselves in slightly different ways” (Buss, 2014) in order to survive the demands of the changing consumer. In response, Toyota utilised product placement as a platform for repositioning their brand, and removing connotations of ‘just practicality’ from Toyota products.

Chang et al (2009) identify three types of product placement processes; Serendipitous, Opportunistic and Planned product placement. Planned product placements are those that occur due to an agreement between an entertainment or production company and a product or service brand. In 2001, Toyota engaged in an agreement with Vivendi Universal to be the official car of Universal Studios in order to maximise their now Planned product placement opportunities in repositioning Toyota brand perceptions.

For example, Toyota cars were largely seen in The Fast and the Furious (2001) and its sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), both very successful films (Dickenson, 2006). The hero of the Toyota representatives was the Toyota Supra, which appeared in a drag race scene in the first film. Wasko (2003) identifies three techniques for product placement being visual, spoken and usage. Turcotte (as cited in Wasko, 2003, p. 155) indicates that when the usage technique is employed, often visual and spoken techniques are also incorporated, which is true for Toyota this example. The Supra is driven by two of the leading characters who race against a Ferrari in an epic and illegal street racing scene, and ultimately win in modest style (Khan, 2010). Visual placement is used as the Toyota brand can be observed; spoken placement occurs as the characters identify the car they are driving; and usage placement occurs as the Toyota car is directly and obviously used as a prop.

Image source: Wikia, n.d
Image source: Wikia, n.d

It is likely that Toyota engaged in the deal with Vivendi Universal, and sought to appoint one of their products as the star of an action packed speed racing film, in order to effectively contemporise their brand image. This product placement sought to appeal to the younger consumer by rejecting associations of sturdy practicality and “allow consumers to see the “fun and dynamic” side of Toyota” (Adweek, 2001).

As a result of Toyota’s efforts to redefine the brand image, in 2002, Matrix sales beat the forecasts by 22%, as well as being “second in segment sales with 23.4% share of market” (Institute of Communication Agencies, 2003). In summary, Toyota utilised the agreement as an experiment with non-traditional advertising where the outcomes were advantageous for both Toyota and Vivendi Universal.


Adweek. (2001, July 31). Universal, Toyota Join Forces. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from Adweek:

Buss, D. (2014, October 16). Toyota Leads ‘Best Global Brands,’ But Audi, VW, Nissan Rise Most. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from Forbes:

Chang, S., Newell, J., & Salmon, C. T. (2009). Product placement in entertainment media. International Journal of Advertising, 28 (5), pp. 783-806.

Dickenson, B. (2006). Hollywood’s New Radicalism. London: I.B.Tauris.

Institute of Communication Agencies. (2003). Toyota Matrix. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from Warc:

Khan, A. (2010). The Fast and the Furious(2001) Ferrari vs Toyota Supra DRAG RACE [Video File]. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from

Taube, A. (2014, June 26). The 12 Companies That Spend The Most On Advertising. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from Business Insider Australia:

Wasko, J. (2003). How Hollywood Works. London: SAGE Publications Inc.

Wikia. (n.d). Toyota Supra. Retrieved April 3, 2015, from Wikia – The Fast and the Furious:


Heineken – “Are You Still With Us?” Campaign

The Auditorium event, as part of the “Are you still with us” campaign for Heineken was scheduled on the 21st October 2009, the same time as the Champions League soccor match (AotW, 2010). This event saw 1136 Italian football supporters in the form of boyfriends, employees and students all being swindled by certain authoritative figures within their lives in being convinced to sacrifice watching the biggest game of the year to attend a fake classical music concert organised by Heineken (Hess, 2012). After 15 minutes into the concert, it was revealed that the audience had been pranked, and were rewarded for their sacrifice by watching the match live on the screen within the concert theatre, courtesy of Heineken (Hess, 2012).

Image Source: WARC, 2011

Elliott et al (2012) states that publicity stunts’ “effectiveness relies on its ability to take its target unawares – they don’t expect it, so they don’t filter it out”. Being an organised event which was unknown to most of the attendees, Heineken’s Auditorium event was effectively a publicity stunt.

One core aspect of Heineken’s campaign strategy was to “use communication to talk to a few, but be overheard by many” (WARC, 2011). This strategy was clearly successful, due to the targeted audience of the prank being a mere 1136 people, yet an estimated 16.5 million people were exposed to the campaign through various news channels, blogs, forums and social media (Hess, 2012), as well as 20 million views on the website created for the campaign (WARC, 2011). The event was intentionally broadcast live on SKY Sports (Hepburn, 2010), reaching a large viewer base, however, journalists were also among the Auditorium attendees swindled by their employers (Hess, 2012); which encouraged another channel of free press coverage for the event. The value of the free media for this event was valued at over €560k (WARC, 2011), indicating that the campaign’s success was communicated through many channels and media.

Image Source: WARC, 2011
Image Source: WARC, 2011

The objectives of the campaign were to maintain Heineken’s volume share; grow a greater sense of loyalty to the brand; and maintain the premium imagery of the brand (WARC, 2011). WARC (2011) reports that Heineken’s volume and value share both increased from a slowly declining rate due to the campaign. Through the campaign, Heineken created a unique brand experience which contributed to consumer perception, and positively influenced a certain degree of loyalty to the brand as seen in post campaign research indicating a 6.3% increase in consumers believing Heineken is “a brand one can trust.” (WARC, 2011) This research also found a 5.2% increase in consumers believing that Heineken is “a brand worth the price” (WARC, 2011), fulfilling the final objective of the campaign.

Image Source: WARC, 2011
Image Source: WARC, 2011

In retrospect, the Auditorium event as a publicity stunt was a major success for Heineken, as it not only effectively produced desirable outcomes from the campaign objectives, but it was also a bold and clever endeavour that broke through the clutter of advertising and attracted significant media coverage.


AotW. (2010). Heineken: Champions League Match vs Classical Concert (Real Madrid, AC Milan). Retrieved March 18, 2015, from Ads of the World: ncert_real_madrid_ac_milan

Elliott, G., Rundle-Thiele, S., & Waller, D. (2012). Marketing (2nd ed.). China: John Wiley & Sons.

Hepburn, A. (2010, March 15). Heineken: Guerrilla Marketing Event In Italy. Retrieved March 18, 2015, from Digital Buzz:

Hess, D. (2012, March 15). Heineken – UEFA Champions League – Real Madrid vs Milan [Video File]. Retrieved from

WARC. (2011). Heineken Italia: Are you still with us? Retrieved March 18, 2015, from WARC: ef=f3eba7de-0bb3-463d-992e-f835d678006d&q=Heineken+madrid&CID=A94437&PUB=CANNES