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You know the kind of ad it’s going to be before it even begins;

Majestic scenery, long ribbon of road, juicy money shots of key body parts, the well-groomed guy behind the wheel that all guys want to be and women want to be with pulling a 24-carat cum-face for the inevitable river crossing/desert shot, before a balletic handbrake turn and closing message. 

Well, the message is changing and the world’s biggest car company, which has set more than 20m vehicles onto the world’s roads in just the two years since 2017, has got its ear to the ground and can hear the stampeding hooves of change.

It’s a very different model because everyone’s focused on one thing.

That Toyota can take appropriate action in view of the question of combustion, cars, climate change and how the hell we engineer our way out of this mess, is down in no small part to the unique model it has developed with The&Partnership, creating an in-house, full service agency for the car brand. Its decision to hand its consolidated European creative, digital, content and media account to The&Partnership streamlines the creative and marketing process down a single route, and its ECD, Portuguese art director Andre Moreira, who has been in place since 2017, sees it as a game changer.

Above: Andre Moreira, ECD at Toyota's in-house, full service agency at The&Partnership. Photographs by Richard Johnson


Different by design

“It’s a very different model, and because everyone’s focused on one thing, it’s a very flat structure without a lot of hierarchy. It means we work very fast and efficiently and well.” Like a high-end Toyota, then. And while many a creative would blanch at analysing reams of data to fashion a campaign, for Moreira, “to work so closely with the data and media really opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about things. By making data central to the process – data that is information about your audience – then you have that audience at the centre of the process, and the conversations you have are completely different.”

When we think about the next hybrid campaign we don’t start with the cars they’ve got, we start with what our audience is thinking about.

The&Partnership is the hub for all things Toyota, with teams embedded in Toyota’s offices in 19 countries across Europe. In the UK, as well as their Soho operation there is a team working from the client office in Epsom, as a full-service agency – advertising, data, media buying and planning, CRM. “It spans pretty much everything,” says Moreira, “and I like that 360-degree view.”

While data crunching can be daunting for creative minds, it’s there to reveal an audience’s touch points, the things that make them prick up their ears. “One of our projects is hybrid. So we look at how people feel about hybrids, and all the changes in automotive, petrol diesel, electric. When we think about the next hybrid campaign we don’t start with the cars they’ve got, we start with what our audience is thinking about.”

Toyota – 4 Aygos, 4 Drag Queens, Anything Goes

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Above: Toyota's Go Your Own Way spot.


Water cooler creative

It was being so close to their client that helped the trans-tastic Go Your Own Way for the Toyota Aygo over the line. Not that the car company doesn’t have form in as a pioneer in gender representation by featuring Ukrainian-born Israeli model Stav Strashko for the Corolla back in 2012. In the case of Go Your Own Way, that came from agency's creative and Toyota’s marketing teams working in the same offices, side by side. “It was a result of water cooler conversations between the marketing director and the creative director, and then they sold it to everyone else.”

A lot of the good results have come from that proximity between us and the client.

The same team is behind branding the Hilux Invincible pick-up ‘the vehicle of choice in a zombie apocalypse’. “They’re brave, unexpected ideas,” says Moreira. “It doesn’t work every time and it doesn’t work everywhere, and that has been a learning experience in itself. But a lot of the good results have come from that proximity between us and the client.”

The one-client model that The&Partnership and Toyota have struck has been talked about as a future model for the industry – putting “&” at the centre of the structure – it is, after all, an essential linking device. And Moreira was already familiar with single-client work, having spent six years before joining The&Partnership at Havas, and before that, Albion, where he started in the late 2000s, after a stint with copywriter Clive Pickering at 180 Amsterdam.

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Toyota – Start Your Impossible Drop by Drop Aitor

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Toyota – Start Your Impossible Drop by Drop Lily

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Toyota – Start Your Impossible Drop by Drop Simona

Above: The&Partnership's recent Drop by Drop campaign.


Riddle me this

Albion was a digital start-up agency, and the duo fashioned a pitch for eBay’s account, and won it. “We both came from traditional backgrounds,” he says, “and we really learnt about digital at Albion. They had an interesting model, as partners with a financial venture capital firm. It would fund a start-up and we would help them define their brand and do their comms. We worked for Skype from the very start, for Blackberry, and for BetFair.” 

I was more or less self-taught as an art director. That gave me a different way of looking at things as a creative.

To help propel these companies from start-ups to behemoths, Moreira and co posed several confounding riddles: What does your brand stand for? How do you want to position yourself? What do you sound like? What do you look like? “It helped us learn a lot about the digital world,” he says, “and how that industry worked. I loved it. It was very exciting. Even today, when you open Skype, all those little sounds are things that we did.”

I always had a fascination for travel and what it would be like beyond a small country like Portugal.

Now a well-settled Londoner, Moreira grew up in Lisbon, studied management at college, then media and advertising, before landing his first role as a junior art director at BBDO Lisbon. “I was more or less self-taught as an art director,” he admits. “That gave me a different way of looking at things as a creative. And I had that business side to me, which involves the social sciences and anthropology, psychology. I always loved that part of our job, the question of how it feeds through to society and how we make sure that people will relate to it on an individual level, and how things spread in society and how people engage with things.”

He was fortunate, he says, to come up in Lisbon’s compact market. “The projects are smaller and things move faster and as a young creative it allows you to do a lot of work quickly, so you get a dynamism and you’re exposed to a lot of projects from a young age.” After a stint at Y&R, he returned to BBDO Lisbon for most of the 2000s until, as the internet and social starting seriously kicking in, he decided it was time to spread his wings. 

In the old world, the whole campaign would be about the Corolla, what that car had that was different to others, what was specific about that model. That’s how most brands still work.

“My mum worked in the airport in Lisbon,” he says, “she was one of the people who said ‘the next flight to depart...’. I spent a lot of time there when I was growing up, and I always had a fascination for travel and what it would be like beyond a small country like Portugal.” He’d soon find out after aiming his sites at London – all he had to do was wait for his mother to announce the flight number…

Toyota – Move Ahead

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Above: Toyota Move Ahead.


London calling

Door-knocking and calling on the help of BBDO contacts in London led him circuitously to 180 Amsterdam, then Albion, and then, when Albion turned consultants rather than an agency, to Havas. “I spent six years there,” he says, “focusing more on international accounts.” His main job was with global spirits brand Pernod Ricard. “I really enjoyed that – it goes back to the aeroplane thing, of doing work for lots of different territories. What was interesting is that we worked through the line – TV, print, digital and then social, just as it was being invented.” He also got into making new products (flavoured vodkas) as well as creating full campaigns for them. “That led to [The&Partnership], and when the opportunity came, I grabbed it.”

The Corolla is the car that we show but the campaign was much more about moving ahead of everyone else, so it was a campaign about hybrid at heart.

One of his latest spots is for the Toyota Corolla, Don’t Get Left Behind, a tarmac ballet of earlier forms of transport, trundling right back to the horse and carriage, but they’re all outclassed by the hybrid, of course. “In the old world of doing things, the whole campaign would be about the Corolla, what that car had that was different to others, what was specific about that model. That’s how most brands still work. Here, the Corolla is the car that we show but the campaign was much more about moving ahead of everyone else, so it was a campaign about hybrid at heart, and that emotional sense of not wanting to be left behind and wanting to be part of the group of people who are changing things, and moving things forward. 

Cleaving to the brand, one-on-one, could be the new bespoke insurance service to steer big names to where their audiences will see them.

And that came from a very good sense of who we were talking to and what was driving them. We care as much about what drives people as what they drive. Having that constant stream of information helps – it’s exclusive access to the client and data that drives it forward.”

The world keeps changing; indeed, it seems to be entering something of a spin cycle and a lot of things are going to come out in the wash. Huge corporations can shrink with alarming Alice-like rapidity; cleaving to the brand as close as The&Partnership does, one-on-one, could be the new bespoke insurance service to steer big names to where their audiences will see them. 

“There’s a sense in Toyota that unless they shake things up and do things differently they will just disappear,” he says. “A company in a garage somewhere will replace them, but I think having that audience-led approach has really helped Toyota – and that forces them towards change, and they’ve really embraced it.”

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