This Commercial Needs to Die. And I thought I was the only one!
Save us from 'Saved by Zero,' TV watchers complain
NEW YORK (AP) — Any car shoppers left in this brutal market are sure to cheer Toyota's decision to extend zero-percent financing for another month. But another decision may have them hitting the mute button: The automaker will keep airing a television ad for the deal that has sparked some serious ire among TV viewers.
Maybe it's the giant floating red zero in the middle of the screen. Maybe it's the way, one by one, the 11 vehicles included in the incentive zoom into the foreground. Surely, the cheery, twangy "Saved by Zero" jingle has something to do with it, along with the way Toyota Motor Corp. has saturated prime-time sporting events with the 30-second spot.
Whatever it is, Facebook groups, bloggers and other TV watchers have risen up against the Japanese automaker's ad with gleeful rage.
"It's pretty much unanimous that everyone I've talked with thinks it's very annoying," said Colin Anderson, a 19-year-old freshman at the State University of New York at Binghamton. He created the Facebook group "Stop Playing Toyota's 'Saved by Zero' Commercial" after first seeing it a week and a half ago. The group has since swelled to more than 1,200 members and is growing.
Anderson said the ad alone isn't what irritates him — it's the way it dominates the commercial breaks during sporting events. During Monday night's NFL game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins, Anderson counted five or six airings during the first half.
"We changed the channel," he said. "We couldn't watch it."
Others put it even more bluntly. The auto blog Jalopnik.com called the ad "wrist-slitting" in a recent post. And Peter Schrager of Esquire magazine's football blog recently wrote that the ad "has penetrated the nation's consciousness in a way political candidates only dream of."
The zero-percent financing incentive was set to expire this week, but Toyota said Monday it would extend the deal for another month after the company's October U.S. sales fell 23 percent from a year earlier.
And "Saved by Zero" will keep adding to viewers' misery.
The ads will continue airing nationally through Sunday, Toyota marketing spokesman Joe Tetherow said. After that, dealers will have the option to continue airing the ads on a local level.
Tetherow said the campaign has been a hit with dealers, and whatever the reaction from the public, it has been effective in getting the program's message across. Toyota is even extending the incentive to a 12th vehicle, the subcompact Yaris, he said.
"I think the fact that it's being talked about is good, because the message is out there," Tetherow said. "The dealers like the program, and customers do too."
Tetherow didn't know how much negative feedback the company has received, and he declined to say how much the ad campaign cost. According to the media agency TargetCast tcm, however, a season's worth of advertising on ESPN's Monday Night Football alone likely would have cost Toyota $8 million to $10 million.
Sam Craig, a marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, called the ad's jingle "haunting." (It's a cover of a 1983 song by the rock group "The Fixx.") But he said the ad may be reaching a point known in industry lingo as "wear out," when an ad campaign so inundates the target market that it begins to backfire.
"The danger of running the same basic ad over and over again is that as soon as people recognize that, they tune it out," he said.
Whatever the ad's impact on viewers, the ire it has provoked seems contained to Internet carping. Anderson admits his campaign against "Saved by Zero" has been fairly limited despite its online following. He hasn't even written to Toyota to complain, he said.
"Zero-percent financing — that sounds pretty good to me," he said. "The commercial, I think, is just poorly done."