How Prius creates ‘Harmony’ between its brand and consumers

Simon Mainwaring / Advertising / 10 years ago

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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  1. Avatar Steve Poppe says:

    This is such a cool idea. I first heard of this approach from a friend in the tulip business who told me a coffee company had built a flowerscape in Hollard near the airport — really big so it could be seen from the air. I recommended the tactic to AT&T as an idea to welcome fliers into Atlanta during the US Olympic Games a number of years ago. They would have to do have done it the same way as in your video, because I was late with the idea. (Never happened.) In Holland, the picture of the coffee product emerged over time as the flowers bloomed. Vey cool. Great post, thanks.

  2. Avatar admin says:

    Thanks Steve. That’s a great idea. They should have done it. Love how the picture emerged as the flowers bloomed. Even better. Thanks for sharing. Simon

  3. Avatar geo says:

    Nice blog, Simon.

  4. Avatar admin says:

    Thanks George. Appreciate it. Simon

  5. Avatar Tony Long says:

    Greetings, and thanks for your thoughts on this. Increasingly, in a world powered by increasingly diffuse points of contact, ideas like this are no longer “the big idea” but are, frankly, “de rigueur.” What this means is, we cannot think only in such confined spaces as magazine pages anymore. Brand expression (nos 3, 4, & 5) work alongside visibility (nos 1, 2 & 7) in a world that does not require a $2MM shoot or a series of full-page-anythings.

    It’s not the budget, it’s the execution and the brains behind the execution that count.

    Thanks again Simon!

  6. Avatar Tony Long says:

    Apologies for the dreadful second sentence…I hit submit prematurely, I’m afraid…

  7. Avatar admin says:

    Thanks, Tony. And no problem about the spelling – my iphone haz reined myspeling frver.

    Great point above. Outreach to consumers has been fractured into so many mediums and audiences have got more and more specific, so the advertising idea can be ‘smaller’ as long as its also more targeted. That said, simple is always the rule but that implies a difficult to achieve prerequisite – a brand must know who it is. Once it does it can speak simply about who it is and what it thinks (just like us). But until then, any communication is difficult. I think Prius did a great job of knowing itself and therefore had the flexibility and confidence to speak simply in fresh ways.

    Thanks for the great feedback. Simon

  8. Avatar Jan says:

    I love these types of clean and smart advertising ideas. A while back I got inspired by seeing some reverse graffiti ads here in the center of Amsterdam and I decided to look into options. In the Netherlands there are not that many examples yet but I did find out about this company called CRUB, they create great environmentally friendly ads. I agree with you though Simon, this campaign by Prius makes sense on a lot of levels. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Avatar Jan says:

    I just realized in all quickness that I misspelled the company name, it’s CURB, sorry. For a look at their work check out