How Prius creates ‘Harmony’ between its brand and consumers

I was driving down the 10 freeway in L.A. on Sunday with my kids when I saw the billboard above made out of flowers perched on the embankment.

Its part of the Prius ‘Harmony’ campaign created by Saatchi, LA (led by Mike McKay and Andrew Christou), and I wanted to share why I think its such effective advertising for Toyota. For while the media is unusual (the official term is a ‘floralscape’), it satisfies several key requirements for compelling advertising in a fresh way:

1. DEMAND ATTENTION – Even when the sky is blue, the 10 freeway is a bleak experience. So when the drab green embankments usually littered with trash is suddenly transformed by colorful flowers, drivers (lots of them) notice.

2. PRODUCT AS HERO: Every car has a silhouette and the Prius shape isn’t that remarkable yet it has been made into an effective icon.

3. K.I.S.S.: Keep it sensorial stupid (OK, that’s my version). The point is, it’s hard to argue with a product when its re-framed in terms of something as likable as flowers. It appeals to something fundamental to being human – our senses.

4. ADVERTISING AS EXPERIENCE: Literally and metaphorically, this outdoor board transforms the driving experience on the 10 freeway into a wander through a flower bed.

5. STAND FOR SOMETHING: There are those that will argue that other cars get better mileage or that this sort of signage shouldn’t be watered during the day due to restrictions, but the fact is the brand and product make a powerful statement about what they stand for.

6. BE ACCOUNTABLE: The “Harmony Floralscapes” are comprised entirely of living seasonal flowers grown by local businesses in special modular “Eco-crates” made from recycled plastic. They’re also created from organic and reusable materials and are maintained using ecologically friendly techniques, including the utilization of non-potable water, solar electricity and ecologically responsible insect and fungi control.

7. LEAVE A LASTING IMPRESSION: In addition to the Floralscapes themselves, permanent upgrades are being made to the surrounding areas, including landscape and irrigation improvements.

8. STORYTELLING: Such advertising is a powerful brand story that generates PR and clearly dramatizes the brand’s core values.

For what it’s worth, such advertising is not only effective but is a pleasure to be a part of (I worked as a writer on the campaign). And I believe that advertising, and the agencies that create it, have a powerful role to play to bring about future positive change.

If you’ve noticed these florascapes anywhere else, what was your reaction? And do you think its the job of advertising to bring about positive change?

NOTE: Several different designs have been developed and the displays will be changed and updated several times during the next four months. Here’s a peek at a design to come and a full list of the locations where similar installations will appear.


Locations: The downtown Floralscape will be located on the west side of the Pasadena (110) Freeway, just north of the 101 Freeway. Other Los Angeles-area Floralscapes locations include: north side of the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, east of Lincoln Blvd. exit; east side of San Diego (405) Freeway at Orange Street; north side of the Ventura (101) Freeway, west of Balboa Blvd.; south side of the Santa Monica (10) Freeway, east of Overland Drive exit; north side of the Pomona (60) Freeway at Lorena Street exit; south side of the Foothill (210) Freeway, at the Los Robles Ave. on ramp. The San Francisco-area Floralscapes will be located on the south side of the Redwood (101) Freeway at Novato Blvd. in Marin County, and the other will be on the north side of the Junipero Serra (280) Freeway at the Winchester Ave. exit in Santa Clara County.

As always, such efforts require a team that includes Saatchi, LA, Greenroad Media Inc., the non-profit Los Angeles Conservation Corps, California’s Department of Transportation, Caltrans, and, of course, a smart and brave client, Toyota itself.

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