Subaru BRZ - Scorched

Automotive and DIY (BRONZE)
Best Launch (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Subaru Canada, Inc.
Ted Lalka, Vice President, Product Planning & Marketing
Geoff Craig, Director, Marketing
Tara Willis, Advertising Manager
Curtis Lang, Assistant Manager, Advertising

Agency Credits: DDB Canada
Todd Mackie & Denise Rossetto, Co-Creative Directors
Michael Davidson, SVP, Business Unit Director
Paul Riss, Associate Creative Director; Adam Bailey, Associate Creative Director
Tony Johnstone, SVP of Strategic Planning
Peter Brough, Account Director; Julia Morris, Account Supervisor; Lindy Scott, Account Executive
Jorgen Stovne, Art Director; RJ Esfandiyari, Copywriter
Ken Rodger, Producer; Chris Webden, Digital Producer
James Loftus, Account Manager, Public Relations; Greg Vallentin, Senior Consultant
Ed Lee, Senior Director, Social Media; Melissa Smich, Senior Cultivator, Social Media
Rose-Ella Morrison, VP, Director of Print & Graphic Services, Ad Rules
Kirk Broadhead, Mac Production Artist, Ad Rules; Jason Taylor, Mac Production Artist, Ad Rules
Jane Davies, Studio Manager, Ad Rules
Michelle Jairam, Client Communication Director, OMD
Jennifer Thompson, Group Director of Strategy, OMD; Tyler Gain, Strategy Supervisor, OMD
Steve Gramlich, Strategist, OMD
Radke Films, Production
Bijjou Editorial, Editor
Steve Pinter, Retoucher
Music: “Execute” by Excision
Common Good, Post Production

Total 2723 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):June 2012 – June 2013
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: June 15 2012
Base Period as a Benchmark: N/A (NEW VEHICLE)

a) Overall Assessment

2012 marked Subaru’s first-ever foray into the sports car segment with the introduction of the 2013 BRZ. This was an exciting opportunity for Subaru to showcase it’s superior engineering. Complicating matters was the BRZ’s identical twin, the Toyota FR-S. The BRZ and the FR-S were the products of a joint venture between Toyota and Subaru. The two cars were nearly identical, with only small feature differences separating them beyond their nameplates. Unfortunately, the FR-S benefited from the halo of the much larger Toyota brand with a share of voice of over 6.6%, compared to Subaru’s mere 2.1% share of voice. Toyota also had the budget to support a full mass campaign launch. Conversely, the BRZ launch had the smallest budget support of any new model launch for Subaru in recent years.

In addition, the introduction of the BRZ represented the first vehicle in Subaru’s lineup that did not include full-time symmetrical all-wheel drive - a feature that has been a key point of differentiation between the Subaru brand and its competitors. Both Subaru dealers and brand loyalists were concerned that this decision may ‘dilute’ the brand and were not very happy with the decision 

With a small budget, the BRZ campaign needed to make an impact and establish itself in a new segment, while simultaneously differentiating itself from the Toyota FR-S. It also needed to make dealers and loyalists happy

b) Resulting Business Objectives

As the BRZ was a brand new model launch for Subaru, the objective of the campaign was to build awareness, curiosity and anticipation around the BRZ before the vehicle was released. The aim was to create so much buzz that people would pre-order a BRZ before the inventory was even available in stores. Impressions and video views would be a measure of the buzz we created.

Subaru had an extremely lofty goal of selling 100% of their allocated inventory for the 2013 model year. This equated to 500 cars in the remaining 6 months of 2012 and another 500 cars between January to June in 2013.

Additionally, future ‘factory production allocation’ between Subaru’s BRZ and Toyota’s FR-S was going to be based on a side by side comparison of the two models’ sales performance…. making the stakes even higher!

With a limited launch budget and low brand awareness, Subaru needed to beat their much larger twin and rival, Toyota. To achieve the 1000 unit sales target, dealership traffic would need to increase by 20% over the previous year.

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area
National Canada

a) Analysis and Insight

The BRZ was a brand new model, which meant there were no existing insights from previous model years to draw from. To rectify this we set out on an extensive two-week qualitative research tour of Canada to gain target insights. This research consisted of multiple groups of consumers in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver markets.

Through this research and additional quantitative data, we identified our target as young, tech-savvy men who were automotive enthusiasts. Whether it’s cars, their latest gadget or even their shoes, they have an appreciation for unconventional, uniquely designed and well-built things….and they like to have them ahead of others in their social circle. For them, it’s not just about how something looks, it’s also about how well it performs. 

The BRZ was the perfect pairing of a sexy sports car with incredible performance for a truly great driving experience. Subaru’s BOXER engine and unique chassis made only by Subaru creates a lower centre of gravity compared to other sports car models on the road, which gives the BRZ improved handling. We knew the target would appreciate the superior engineering and performance of this vehicle.

Considering the targets’ affinity for early adoption and living fast, this launch campaign became the perfect opportunity to showcase this brand new car as the ultimate tease. To get the target salivating over this car, the campaign set out to depict just how hot the 2013 BRZ really was.

b) Communication Strategy

Our communication strategy had to pair the sexiness of the vehicle with its superior driving capabilities. We had to remind people what owning a real sports car was all about: beauty and performance.

Other sports cars in this class have the sizzle without the steak. They look good, have all the exterior wrappings of a ‘hot’ sports car, but inside and under the hood they lack the real goods that make for a truly great driving experience. The BRZ, on the other hand, is a pure performance vehicle that will truly get the blood boiling. Our strategic angle was to focus on the fact that with the BRZ you have one truly hot car

a) Media Used

The campaign was brought to life in a variety of different mediums, including:

  • Print
    • First-to-market lenticular
    • First-to-market Metro execution
    • Sharp Magazine first to market cover wrap
    • Newspaper & Magazine
  • Online
    • Online Video
    • In-Banner Video Ads
    • Online banners
    • Pre-Roll Videos
    • YouTube Masthead
    • Facebook Ads
    • First-to-Market Page Takeovers
    • Landing Page
  • Social Media
    • Cultivation & Seeding
    • Blogger & Journalist Involvement
  • Street Installations
    • Montreal
    • Toronto

b) Creative Discussion

The creative aimed to create the type of excitement and emotional connection that our target had back in the day when they posted their favourite sports car in their lockers in high school. We used temperature as a metaphor to convey the BRZ’s superior performance and appearance. The BRZ is so hot that it literally scorches, burns and melts everything in its path.


60s Online Video/ Branded YouTube Channel

The 60 second video takes place in a sweltering underground garage in extreme slow motion where everything is melting, from discarded trash on the ground, to the paint physically peeling and blistering off the walls. A slow tease reveals the source of the heat – the new BRZ. The temperature builds to a crescendo when the heat from the car triggers the sprinklers to explode raining down on the BRZ. The water from the sprinklers evaporates upon contact with the vehicle creating a mist from which the vehicle suddenly appears, drifting sideways into frame in 1000FPS slow-motion with an accompanying dub-step audio track. The end of the spot deliberately finishes with minimal Subaru branding and no call-to-action…. to maintain the ‘underground vibe’.


In-Banner Video Ads

We used clips from our sexy online video in our banner ads – refusing to do anything conventional, like regular standard 40k online banners, we chose to actually have pieces of our video play within the banners to draw the viewer in to watch the video in full.


Online Banners

Additional online banners that did not host the video were used interestingly as well. We used a slow transition to burn the banner space around the car away, leaving only the car sitting in the space before revealing the name and CTA.


Pre-Roll Units

We used clips of the online video in pre-roll urging consumers to visit our landing page for the full 60 second video experience.

YouTube Masthead

For one 24-hour period, the BRZ took over the YouTube masthead space. Mini-clips of our 60s video played in sequence to entice consumers to click though to our landing page to watch the full video.


Facebook Ads

Mini scorched Facebook ads drove users to our landing page where they were able to watch the full video and learn more about the car.

Page Takeovers

We partnered with to produce a first to market execution that would surprise visitors upon arrival. We purchased the masthead banner of the homepage, and worked with VICE to design a special page-interrupting experience to visitors. Upon first arrival at the homepage, everything would appear normal. Then, suddenly the user would realize that the BRZ masthead was slowly burning the content of the homepage away, destroying everything in it’s path until only the BRZ banner remained at the top of the screen. Slowly, the true homepage faded back in, and the BRZ ad played out in completion.

12322_VICE Landing Page

On, we created a landing page that portrayed the scorched theme. Here, the users could watch the online video, build and price a BRZ, find a dealer, and get more information on the all-new vehicle.



In print, we partnered with publications to create very interesting first to market executions to maintain interest with our early-adopter target, and prove just how hot the BRZ was.

The Grid allowed us to take control of their front page. With them, we created a first to market lenticular front cover. Using the ‘moving image’ of the lenticular’s technology, we were able to show the BRZ burn away the front cover of the newspaper to reveal the vehicle underneath.


With Sharp magazine, we created the publications first ever unfolding cover wrap, which allowed us to scorch the edges of the front cover of the magazine, to reveal a double page spread featuring the scorched BRZ on the inside. 

With Metro newspapers, we partnered with the publication to use their editorial, and purchase multiple ‘island ads’, which allowed us to create the illusion that the car was burning through several pages of content.   



Cultivation & Seeding

We seeded our content out to forums and blogs, and got people sharing our online video.

Blogger & Journalist involvement

As added incentive to share our story, we invited a few key influential bloggers out to the shooting of the BRZ online video. This VIP experience offered bloggers and Journalists a chance to get a few behind the scenes shots to share exclusively on their sites. As a thank you for coming, we sent follow up gift bags to our bloggers with a super hot theme – everything from cinnamon gum, fireball whisky and personalized engraved Zippo lighters were included in their packages.



The street installations were the most unique piece of our creative. In both Montreal and Toronto, we placed the BRZ in the middle of a completely scorched landscape to make it appear that the heat radiating off the BRZ had melted everything in it’s path. The unique installations were designed to turn heads, encourage consumers to stop, take and share photos, and ultimately generate buzz for the new model.


c) Media Discussion

Our channel strategy aimed to build awareness quickly with our early-adopting, young auto enthusiasts by finding new and unique ways to reach them. The goal was to create unique and interesting advertising executions so that the target would be inclined to share it with their friends. With a limited budget, we decided to leverage earned and social media to get our story out. By choosing online as the primary medium, the audience could see the un-restricted, pure performance of the BRZ, without the safe driving restrictions that are placed on broadcast advertising by the ASC.

In addition, by positioning the vehicle as less mainstream and more exclusive, the status and cache of the vehicle would grow amongst the target group.

The campaign began with print in the first week of June, and quickly followed up with all of our online assets and ambient. By July, we were in full launch mode with all assets in market. The Montréal street installation occurred during the largest Montréal auto-based event of the year: The Grand Prix. Toronto’s installation followed shortly after, where we rented a storefront space for the month of July and made it look like it had been ravaged by fire created from the BRZ. Magazine and blogger outreach continued through to October to maintain the sales momentum.

a) Sales/Share Results

In terms of meeting Subaru’s business objectives, we scorched them!

Subaru sold 100% of the 500 cars that were available in 2012, with close to half coming from pre-orders. Additionally, even when the cars were sold out Subaru continued to get orders for the 2013 production models. As a result, Subaru was up +18% of their BRZ target for the 2013 sales year-to-date at 601 units sold between January and June 2013. This far exceeds the 2013 target of 500 vehicles.

It was also very clear that the campaign translated directly into quality leads, as dealership traffic during the campaign jumped +43% year over year (versus our ‘high hopes’ target of 20%)

The online-concentrated campaign exploded through Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media. Throughout the campaign, we garnered over 838,000,000 impressions, which helped us to very quickly create mass awareness for the new BRZ among young performance car enthusiasts in Canada. In fact, the campaign was so unique and newsworthy, that our story was even picked up by bloggers in different countries, garnering international media coverage for the BRZ. 

The online launch video was a massive success as well. Amassing more than 587,000 views on YouTube, the video was an instant hit with the target. With 97% of the reviews being positive, Subaru saw comments on their YouTube page such as, “Best. Commercial. Eveeeeeer”, and “I think I’m in love”.

The street installations in Toronto and Montreal generated a huge amount of awareness for the model with 9 million combined impressions. This included 5,100 one-to-one interactions and 5000 BRZ posters being handed out. This far surpassed the target of 5 million impressions (+80%), 3,500 one-to-one interactions (+57%), and 1,000 poster giveaways (+400%). 

As an added success, based on the sales results versus the Toyota FR-S, Subaru’s allocation of production was more than doubled for the subsequent model year.

The campaign successfully launched Subaru into the sports car category and elevated awareness of the Subaru brand across the country and around the world.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

For many reasons, it is clear that there is a direct relationship between advertising for the BRZ campaign and the sales results for the campaign period.

Firstly, this was a vehicle that the consumer had no prior knowledge of before the campaign launched. As soon as the campaign aired in June, sales surged, selling 114 units and achieving 143% of Subaru’s target for that month. Sales maintained momentum throughout the campaign period, achieving an average of +112% of target for the duration of the campaign (June – October 2012).

Additionally, sales declined as soon as the campaign was out of market. In January and February 2013 after the campaign ended, sales of the BRZ were down, achieving only 80% of target.

By the end of 2012, the introduction of the new BRZ had helped Subaru increase their percentage of sales in the passenger car segment by 33.6%. This was a larger increase than #1 competitor Toyota saw at only an increase of +25%. This increase ultimately helped Subaru increase their share of the overall Japanese market to 5.63%, a +2.7% increase vs. 2011.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

The budget of $1,250,000 was for media and production combined. By industry standards, this is a very small budget, especially for the launch of a brand new vehicle into a segment that they had never been in. Toyota had a much larger mass-media campaign in-market for their almost identical FR-S model that included broadcast television. Nonetheless, Subaru managed to sell 100% of vehicles available in 2012, and even garner pre-orders for 2013 production models.


Subaru also maintained its full margin price and incentive levels for the launch. They did not offer any special consumer incentives (i.e. 0% lease/finance, $0 down, gas gift cards, etc.). There was also a significant 10% premium price discrepancy between the BRZ and the more affordable Toyota FR-S. Therefore, the success of the BRZ was not due to a pricing strategy.

Distribution Changes:

Furthermore, our distribution levels stayed the same. The number of Subaru dealerships has remained constant at approximately 90 dealers for several years, all dealers carry all models, and there has been no change in specific model distribution.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

The sales results can also be directly related to the BRZ campaign because there was minimal overlap between the BRZ and XV Crosstrek communications in market. Subaru’s XV model attracted a much different target of people looking to upgrade to a more spacious vehicle rather than downsize to a sports car. Therefore, any traffic from the XV campaign would not convert to BRZ sales.

Other Potential Causes:

No other potential causes affected the BRZ's suceess, other than the campaign itself.