Lexus Promo, Case study DARK RIDE by Skinny

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Industry Cars
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market United States
Agency Skinny
Creative Director Nick Cope
Art Director Cris Westrell, Ryoko Hotani
Released September 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Best Launch or Re-launch
Advertiser: LEXUS
Product/Service: LEXUS CT 200H
Chief Creative Officer: Jonas Hallberg (SKINNY)
Chief Creative Officer: Liron Reznik (SKINNY)
Chief Communications Officer: Cluadia Strauss (SKINNY)
Creative Director: Nick Cope (SKINNY)
Sr. Art Director: Jorge Ramirez (SKINNY)
Art Director: Cris Westrell (SKINNY)
Account Director: Lina Drott (SKINNY)
Art Director: Ryoko Hotani (SKINNY)
Communications and Event Director: Gabe Banner (SKINNY)
PR Supervisor: Jeannine Magno Feyen (SKINNY)
Account Executive: Brenda O'Donovan (SKINNY)
Account Executive: Kellye Crittenden (SKINNY)
Account Coordinator: Ursula Cuevas (SKINNY)
Executive Producer: Jen Dennis (SKINNY)
Media placement: Press Releases: Exclusive Campaign Release/interview - New York Times/Stuart Elliot Feature - 1 April 2010
Media placement: Press Releases: Trailer Reveal (Release With Link And Embeddable Trailer) - Autoblog, The Torque Report, The Lexus Enthusiast, Automobile - 30 March 2010
Media placement: Press Releases: Film Release (Behind The Scenes Stills, Branded Screen Shots, Li - Wall Street Journal, Chipchick, Road & Track, Greencarreports, Ecorazzi, The Alt - 14 May 2010
Media placement: Press Releases: Film Release (CONTINUED) - Bnet, Brandweek, The Daily Green, Automotive News, Creativity, Contagious, Varie - 14 May 2010
Media placement: Press Releases: Dark Ride Card Launch Event/LA - Paper Magazine - 13 May 2010
Media placement: Dark Ride Card ‘vertical’ Pitches - Flavorpill, Treehugger, Ecochick, Coolhunting, Green LA Girl, Ecorazzi, The Lexu - 14 May 2010

Summary of the Campaign
Lexus wanted to charter new territory for the brand - progressive, digitally-savvy Gen X/Y customers, with a new, yet-to-be-produced hybrid called the CT 200h. Designed and priced for the younger generation, the CT would become Lexus’ gateway product. The challenges we faced included not having any physical cars, overcoming the perception gap (a typical Lexus buyer’s median age is 57), and of course entering a market already bombarded with brand messages. Lexus would gauge success by the total number of handraisers attracted, media attention and overall perception of the CT as reported by the press and in social spheres.

The campaign centerpiece was a Hollywood-styled interactive film entitled “Dark Ride,” giving viewers a uniquely digital in-car experience. The program was launched via rich, strategic PR, SM, CRM and media including a highly-focused GroupOn-like VIP influencer program with partnering luxe brands and social tie-ins to make the program that much more relevant to the target. The ‘Dark Ride’ program was crafted to hit our target market’s passion points (culture, ‘light’ green, music, tech, food etc), each which spurred positive editorial within the particular niche category media.

Result: big numbers, including the most handraisers for any Lexus model launch, ever.

The Situation
Being that the CT 200h was a new vehicle and Lexus wanted to sell to a consumer group outside their typical market, PR was vital to building momentum toward the car’s eventual launch (nearly one year later). Specifically, we needed to change Gen X/Y’s perception of Lexus and show that the car and the brand associate well within culture, tech, green, food etc – passion points for the generation.

It was clear that just showing the car via ‘Dark Ride’ wouldn’t be enough. What was needed was convincing copy from trusted reporters, influencers and tastemakers across the aforementioned verticals.

The Goal
Goals: Capture 11,000 email handraisers and test-drive-sign-ups as possible through PR, SM, the ‘Dark Ride’ experience and affinity programs to later be converted to qualified buyers through CRM.

Objectives: Shift the target audience’s perception of Lexus towards considering the brand as relevant to their lifestyle. Educate potential buyers on the CT’s features and engage them to explore and learn more.

Audience: Digitally savvy Gen X/Y with median age of 35 who are interested in tech, shopping, fashion, culture, nightlife/dining and ‘light’ green.

The Strategy
The Dark Ride campaign was crafted to leverage influential consumer and trade media via a phased, customized approach. The strategy was to build anticipation within the target audience via the unique ‘reinvented test drive’ film and the surrounding Dark Ride lifestyle experiences, as well as anticipation for the vehicle itself the following year. Dark Ride was also a vehicle to demonstrate Lexus’ innovation and creativity.

To differentiate the CT from other hybrids, we positioned it as an edgy, sporting car with more to offer than just eco-friendliness.

Our approach was to generate WOM among traditional media, blogs and social networks in carefully selected verticals. These included auto, tuner magazines, trend/culture media, design, green/eco, men’s lifestyle, fashion, gaming, advertising/marketing and entertainment trade/filmmaking. Throughout the campaign we drove people to the Lexus Dark Ride URL:, where they could engage with the vehicle and ‘handraise’ to get more information closer to launch.

Rather than traditional auto communications we mirrored the release of a Hollywood blockbuster film, first announcing Dark Ride and teasing the trailer at Lexus’ NY Auto Show events in April 2010. Concurrently, NYT and Variety were given exclusives to break the story to influencers, which was quickly followed by a push to automotive media and enthusiast communities. When the full 12.5’ film debuted the following month we went broadly to entertainment/lifestyle media and sustained the launch over subsequent weeks with customized pitches to tech, culture and green outlets, and via social channels.

From May through the end of September 2010, we seeded Dark Ride VIP cards via hand-picked influencers and events in four markets. More than 60 partners gave talkworthy deals and exclusive products that enabled us to garner placements in localized/specialty/niche blogs. The corresponding email/CRM overlay built the database and communicated offers, invites and CT news.

Documented Results
- Exceeded goal of 11,000 handraisers with a total of 12,276.
- An unprecedented 3,477 requests for dealership information – the most in Lexus’ history so far from launch.
- Editorial response to the program positioned Lexus as an edgy hybrid lifestyle authority with a provocative, timely product.
- Media impressions reached 95 million, generating accolades for Lexus as a brand and marketer in crucial lifestyle verticals and in automotive and marketing media. Key placements included: New York Times, Variety, Coolhunter, Wall Street Journal, Paper Magazine, Treehugger, and Automotive News.
- More than 200,000 views on and YouTube.
- 58 million interactions across multiple social channels including Facebook and Youtube, showcased the personality of the new Lexus and garnered a flurry of comments: “definitely kept my attention” and “Lexus, this is badass.”
- 74,000 emails delivered, opened at an average rate of 31 percent (higher than the desired % rate) with a 4.8 percent click-through rate.