Toyota axes ad breaks for cross-platform campaign

Capitalizing on the massive popularity of French police drama District 31, the Quebec Toyota Dealers Association is sponsoring an extra-long season premiere.

For its latest campaign, the Quebec Toyota Dealers Association has decided that sometimes the best TV commercial break is no commercial break at all.

The association has partnered with CBC/Radio-Canada to sponsor a “commercial-free” episode of the French-language police drama District 31. The episode, which is the premiere of the second season, will debut Sept. 11 on SRC

And, according to Valérie Jolivet, media strategist for the Toyota account with media agency Bleublancrouge, none of the characters will come zipping onto the scene in Toyota vehicles. “We’re not really integrating the vehicles within the actual show either,” she said. “The team gave the writers of this show six extra minutes to do what they wanted with.”

Instead, the episode will be book-ended with 30-second ads that acknowledge the dealers association as its sponsor. SRC will also air ads for two weeks prior to promote the commercial-free episodes and acknowledge Toyota’s involvement.

Jolivet said the campaign, which is mostly centered around brand awareness and not tied to any new products or promotions, was devised by Bleublancrouge as an activation that would be noticed for its uniqueness. She said the team believed viewers would appreciate the uninterrupted nature of the show (increasing their affinity for the Toyota brand), and that the massively popular District 31 would hit the key target demographics for Toyota in the 25 to 54 range. 

The show’s first season last year saw an average audience of 1.21 million viewers per episode in the French market. Jolivet added that the season premiere is anticipating a very large audience simply because of the cliffhanger ending of the first season. “It was established as a not-to-be missed show of the year,” she said. “Viewers really want to know what happens to the characters — they’re very engaged.”

The Quebec Toyota Dealers Association is also taking the ad-free stance cross-platform, sponsoring an episode of Radio-Canada’s original series Herby on its digital  platform Tou.TV. The episode, which is online now and will run until Sept. 11, will also feature the 30-second Toyota ads at the beginning and end, with none of the standard mid-roll that Radio-Canada’s online originals usually include.

For the week of Sept. 11 to Sept. 18, the association will also buy all the ad space (and erase it) from Radio-Canada’s Snapchat content (with ads at the very beginning and end of the week informing viewers that the experience was sponsored by Toyota). Jolivet said the digital addition was to ensure that the campaign reaches younger audiences.

Bleublancrouge and Toyota have previously played with the idea of reducing or skipping ads on digital. This past summer, to promote the Yaris, the dealers association debuted a pre-roll ad on YouTube featuring a driver running out of his car to tap the “Skip Ad” button on the YouTube display, cutting it off at 4.9 seconds. Last fall, the two partners also targeted millennials with an ad encouraging them to “Skip Dad” and buy their own car. It was the association’s top-performing digital ad campaign for the year, according to a representative from the agency.