Toyota Pushes ‘Auto-Biography’ Facebook Campaign

Toyota is encouraging owners of its cars to share personal stories about their vehicles on Facebook in what it has dubbed each person’s “Auto-Biography.”

The carmaker says the campaign is intended to highlight the fun and excitement of car ownership. But it also stresses a certain familial attachment to its Camry and Corolla models in particular and aims to show the world there are still plenty of loyal Toyota owners despite recalls due to sticking accelerator pedals earlier this year.

The Facebook application launched July 2. Since then, 5,400 posts have been added to Toyota’s Facebook fan page, where it says owners can “collect and showcase [their] most memorable moments.”

In these posts, car owners enter information about the model, year, and number of miles on their car, as well as an anecdote, like memories of a first vehicle or the bittersweet moment when a car with hundreds of thousands of miles was sold or given away.

Saatchi & Saatchi created the campaign.

Bob Zeinstra, national manager of advertising and strategic planning for Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S., points to the popularity of the Camry and Corolla models – which were ranked number one and number two respectively in 2009 car sales, according to industry sales data from R.L. Polk – and says the campaign is intended to remind owners “why they love their cars so much.”

According to Zeinstra, the campaign is a response to the “outpouring of support and care demonstrated by our owners,” after the troubles with recalls earlier this year. He said Toyota also wants to remind people how fun it is to anticipate a new car and how exciting it is for a young person driving for the first time when she is “given the keys to a trusted family friend.”

The number of Auto-Biography stories contributed thus far has “met our expectation on the high end,” Zeinstra said.

What’s more, Toyota’s Facebook fan page has grown considerably. As of Friday, Toyota had nearly 148,000 fans.

In addition to the Facebook stories, the Auto-Biography campaign also includes eight videos on Facebook and YouTube that feature different models, their owners, and more unique stories, such as Erica, the small business owner who is saving up for a Corolla, and the Boller family Camry that has been passed down to two daughters.

“Two themes that were genuine and resonated were the ‘first time buyer’-theme for Corolla and the ‘family pass along’-theme with Camry,” Zeinstra said. “We spent considerable time finding those first time Corolla intenders and these Camry family stories. Certainly some stories are more compelling than others and we ultimately chose these.”

These eight videos are also featured in national and local TV ads.

In addition to television ads, the campaign has been advertised in print publications as well as with digital banner advertising on Facebook, AOL, Yahoo, Digg, ABC Family, and other sites.

Toyota’s Interactive Marketing Group will continue to house these stories on the site, which Zeinstra says allows for easy access to more stories or situations as Toyota has the need.

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