Ad Nauseam: Toyota’s (Passive-Aggressive) Ransom Note to America

Toyota wants you to know that it’s here for you. And not just as a car maker, as the company explains in this spot, ironically entitled "Community."

Like GM before them, Toyota wants to make sure you realize just how much their company means to you. Here’s our voice-over:

"We acknowledge you are coming to despise automobiles, but your nation depends on our industry for so many jobs that, even if we only manufactured cardboard cut-out cars that you had to carry down your few remaining walkable Main Streets, you’d still need us, America."

Accompanying the ad is the aggressively cloying and patently manipulative "Beyond Cars" web site —
which if nothing else should serve as an irresistible culture-jamming target. What do we see, Toyota? For starters, we see a world where your product doesn’t kill people.

And you? What do you see?

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Is it just me, or does that “cardboad cut-out” look like a David Byrne-inspired bike rack? I mean obviously he wouldn’t create anything of the sort, but it does look like one…

  • JSD

    This seems more than a little inspired by the similarly named “BP-Beyond Petroleum” ads from a few years back.

    They changed their logo, greenwashed their gas stations, and installed a couple of planters. In the end, it’s only a front, and a pathetic one at that.

  • dissent

    i find this post a little over the top, like a self-parody of anti-car sentiment. yeah, the ad promotes a car company on the basis that it’s continued existence sustains the many jobs that the company has “created”. it’s pretty unremarkable stuff, standard corporate PR. does that really amount to a “ransom note”? it’s a perversely attenuated logic that sees this as toyota holding a gun to u.s. workers’ heads, telling consumers “buy our cars or the working stiff gets it”. it’s fortunate for streetsblog that it represents the little guy in this david and goliath dynamic, because this kind of misstep and overreaction is the kind of thing that often proves embarrassing to incumbent powers.

  • Glenn

    It’s exactly like Beyond Petroleum. There’s no substance there…

    If Toyota starts producing and marketing something like a bike share program, then they can talk.

  • David_K

    What I see is some guy hosing down a sidewalk — a dumbass way to waste water.

  • Jason A

    It’s kind of sickening for a car company to use a handsome Main Street as the back drop for a commercial. Thanks to the tireless lobbying and marketing efforts of car companies over the past half century, such commercial districts and development are now the exception in this country – and all too often illegal thanks to zoning restrictions and parking requirements.

  • The cutout cars let you see through them. That way you can admire the beautiful urban environment shown in the ad. How unfortunate that in real life, parked cars blight nearly all of the world’s finest urban neighborhoods — too bad we can’t see through them, can’t admire what they’re covering up. The whole thing makes me sad.

  • Eric

    Toyota is trying to deal with the issue of “buy American” when it comes to cars. I have a coworker said she would never buy a Toyota because it wasn’t made in America. I had to show her that Toyota makes cars in America and employs Americans. I don’t see any nefarious plot in this to undermine cycling, they are using the same images that American car manufacturers have used for years.

  • doodee


    I hear where you’re coming from, but I have to agree with “dissent” on this one. Chill out, its as harmful as a Pepsi ad. A ubiquitous brand reinforced by middle-of-the-road appeals. Its not “F You bikers”, ok?

  • poncho

    what about the new honda commercial where a dad gives his daughter his honda car and he gets a brand new honda. she’d probably not buy a car on her own so her father gives her his.

  • I have to agree with dissent and doodee here. This is a fairly innocuous spot in comparison to the Audi spot posted earlier this week. If this site becomes a rebuke of every single car ad, I’m going to have to stop reading.

  • i see toyota trying to appear like americans to sell some more cars to americans, who are easily led and brainwashed brainwashed by slogans like “buy american.”

    i mean, sure, cars = bad. i know this, we all know this, but get real.

    how on earth could you arrive at such a hostile and (passive) aggressive conclusion from such a boring and innocuous commercial?

  • jooltman

    I noticed too that this beautiful main street is completely devoid of cars, and I like to think how many people must have had their cars towed the day of the shoot just so Toyota could create their pure impression. Tee hee.


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