In a challenging era for car sales, sometimes you need a team of superheroes to help get the metal off the lot.
Lexus, the luxury-auto unit of Toyota, is joining with the Marvel band of altruistic aliens known as the Eternals, who are slated to be the focus of the next film from the popular Disney-backed entertainment unit. Social-media vignettes featuring actor Kumail Nanjiani as Kingo, an Eternal who can blast cosmic energy from his hands, will start to surface Monday. The movie, simply titled “Eternals,” is expected to debut November 5.
Lexus is hoping to make “Gen Y” consumers in their 30s and 40s more aware of its vehicles, says Vinay Shahani, Lexus vice president of marketing, in an interview. “Gen Y is going to be the biggest group of consumers for luxury vehicles here in the U.S. And Gen Y is also going to be the most diverse generation the U.S. has ever seen,” Shahani says. Because “Eternals” features characters from a broad range of backgrounds — actors include Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan, Richard Madden, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Barry Keoghan, Don Lee and Kit Harrington — “we felt like the movie really aligns with our audience,” he adds.
In a 30-second vignette likely to show up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok and other venues, Nanjiani’s Kingo races in a new Lexus IS 500 sports sedan to join his comrades in battle, but faces a more immediate challenge: finding a parking spot. Actor Gaius Charles provides a new overall narrating voice for the company.
Lexus worked hard to ensure the spot looked like a Marvel movie, enlisting brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, who have directed four Marvel movies, to guide the commercial. And the company tapped Framestore, a special-effects company that has also worked with Marvel, says Shahani. Viewers who pay close attention to the ad may notice a few Marvel “Easter eggs,” or references to Marvel storylines.
The Lexus work will also appear on cable, particularly during coverage of college football, NHL games and soccer, but Shahani says the campaign is tilted toward digital media. Lexus spent approximately $354.8 million on traditional advertising in 2020, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending.
Lexus sees its “Eternals” connection as part of a bigger bid to spark consideration of its cars by younger crowds. The marketing executive acknowledges that only a sliver of the consumers who see Lexus ads are in the market to buy a new luxury vehicle at any given moment. But, he says, by finding ways to connect to younger buyers in smart ways, Lexus hopes to keep its name in the mix when someone finds the means to make that sort of purchase.
The campaign will no doubt offer some cheer to mainstream media companies, many of which have been concerned about the state of auto advertising as countries around the globe try to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, the auto industry faced higher overall costs due to supply issues, chip shortages and surges in the price of raw materials and shipping. Now, eMarketer calls for auto industry spending on digital marketing to surge 20.5% to nearly $15 billion. And Magna, a media-research arm of Interpublic Group, expects overall auto ad spending to grow 18% this year.
Lexus will also have some of its vehicles — its LS 500 flagship sedan and its new NX luxury crossover — featured in the movie and will also have placement at the red-carpet “Eternals” premiere.
The automaker was able to get an early peek at the “Eternals” script to determine if the film might match up with any marketing initiatives, says Shahani. Lexus and Marvel have an alliance all their own, one that was inititally formed with the appearance of several Lexus cars in the 2018 Marvel film “Black Panther.”