REACHING OUT TO YOUNG MARKET

Companies melding TV, Web ads

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo News

When Toyota Motor Corp. placed a TV ad in December for its new model, it withheld the name of the car, limited the commercial to five seconds and ran it only late at night.

The commercial announced that Toyota was releasing a music player and flashed the carmaker’s Web site address on the screen. The commercial succeeded in creating a buzz and Internet chatter speculated on whether the auto giant was planning a foray into the music business.

About a month after the ad first appeared on TV, Toyota unveiled its new bB compact, which is equipped with a special sound system.

People in their 20s responded favorably, helping Toyota sell 12,500 of the cars within the first month — 2.5 times more than it originally anticipated.

Toyota spent about the same amount of money for the bB promotion as it has for other models. But it departed from its usual practice of allocating about 90 percent of the advertising budget to newspapers, TV, magazines and radio, and allotted about 50 percent to other communications channels, including the Internet.

Jiro Nakazawa, 29, of Toyota’s publicity and advertising division, said the company tried to build a sense of anticipation among TV viewers and Internet users about what was going to happen with the ad.

Nakazawa, who was in charge of the campaign, hit on the idea of using both TV and the Internet as the most effective way of reaching men in their 20s.

In a role reversal, the Internet was the focus of the campaign, with the TV commercial used as a hook to pull prospective buyers onto the Web.

That may be a sign of things to come. Domestic advertising sales for newspapers, TVs, magazines and radio declined 0.7 percent in 2005 from a year earlier to 3.65 trillion yen, while spending on Internet advertising surged 54.8 percent to 280.8 billion yen.

NEC Corp. combined TV and the Internet in its advertising strategy when it put a new cell phone on sale last summer.

“Chase after N on the Net,” said its TV ad, with well-known South Korean actor Lee Byung Hun playing Mr. N, running across the screen.

The NEC home page showed Mr. N enjoying the mobile phone’s many functions.

The company’s PR department said it used the Internet because brief TV ads could not fully explain the phone’s functions.

The Internet can also serve as an ideal medium for damage control. When a scandal broke earlier this year over condominiums and hotels built using fabricated earthquake-resistance data, home builder Asahi Kasei Homes placed a newspaper ad advising its readers: “Let’s ask Koyama-san” with the Web address koyamasan.jp.

“Koyama-san” is the online alias of Asahi Kasei’s earthquake-resistance engineering specialist.

Since many consumers were interested in the issue, Asahi Kasei Homes provided a means for him to provide information about earthquake engineering over the Internet.

Industry observers say the number of consumers who first find information in newspaper ads and then turn to the Internet for details has been on the rise. The two media are complementary because the Internet, unlike newspapers, has virtually no space limitations.

Kazunari Fujii of Hakuhodo Inc., who handles NEC’s advertisements, sees the mass media and the Internet as partners, not competitors.