Toyota to Parents: Don’t be Lame

Toyota pokes fun at parents- again- in the ad blitz to launch the revised 2011 Highlander.
The Big Idea from Saatchi & Saatchi in Torrance, California, centers around the theme: “Just because you’re parents, doesn’t mean you have to be lame.”
The line is delivered by a blond, eight-year-old named Nathan James, who shares tips on dealing with up-hip parents. He thinks his parents are dorky because they have a really, old minivan, which looks like an unbadged Chrysler, complete with fake wood trim. Hmm, wonder why they didn’t show a dorky, old Toyota Previa minivan.


Toyota made fun of parents in this year’s launch of the new Sienna minivan. But that campaign, which is still active, works because it’s so obviously tongue-in-cheek, calling the minivan the “swagger mobile.” The Sienna push always shows the same actors, a young couple with two young kids, and their non-adventures. But the parents are in the joke- not the butt of it.
Toyota says this Highlander blitz is aimed at parents with children between the ages of 7 and 12, and adds these kids “are easily embarrassed by their parents” and “the last thing they want is to be picked up from school in the old family hauler.”
I’m sure Toyota did their homework (translation: research) to end up at that target and conclusion. But for some kids, it’s not like the embarrassment stops at 12. It also seems like a small audience since it only covers kids in a six-year age range.
A dealer told me a number of years back that parents were bringing their kids into his showroom and they had a lot of sway about what their parents bought. This just floored me, since my parents never brought me to the showroom for my opinion when they were buying a new car. I walked to elementary school and later took the bus, so I never had to worry about any possible embarrassments about my parent’s cars, which I actually couldn’t wait to get my hands on to drive myself at the legal age.
I know times have changed, but this kid in the Highlander ads is just too smug. Have a look at the new Highlander videos on the automaker’s You Tube channel here

On the bright side, at least Toyota has gotten smarter – sticking to a single theme and actors and integrating it across all mediums for a single product. Not too many years back Toyota would have several totally different ads for the same model. At least this way you’ll know when you see “Nathan” what’s coming and you can take appropriate action.

But you’ll probably be seeing a lot of him, since he’ll be in every TV commercial airing during Modern Family, The Good Wife, The Big Bang Theory, plus Sunday and Monday Night Football. Toyota says it’s got integration in Top Chef, Bones, Parks and Recreation, In Plain Sight, and Mixed Signals. Little Nathan will be in print ads in TIME, People, Family Circle, Men’s Health, Real Simple, Parade, Sports Illustrated, More, Cooking Light and O the Oprah Magazine.
And this actor is hosting his own web series on Toyota’s You Tube channel in a late-show genre, interviewing family, friends and neighbors. Look for him hosting movie reviews on Fandango and a photo competition on Photobucket. He and/or his voice will be part of the entire campaign, complete with Nathan’s seal of approval on Toyota’s Highlander microsite here


44 responses to “Toyota to Parents: Don’t be Lame

  1. I thought I was the only one, that thought these commercials were awful.

    I just want to say to the ‘kid’. Yeah Kid, so your parents have a lame car. Deal with it. You have food on the table and might be able to afford college one day.

    And I want to say to the ad exec’s that wrote this. Teaching children how to be rude and disrespectful, how nice of you, NOT.

  2. I hate this line of commercials

    makes me want to slap that kid for being so rude and YES LAME .
    why is this allowed to run .
    In this day and age of people getting in over their head with finance’s . HOW Dare toyota run such trash .

    I would not buy a car that tries to appeal to us by using shame

    Must not be any thing good about the car if they could not advertise based on the cars merits

  3. Pingback: Dave said Toyota is Lame! |

  4. There is a new commercial that is even more offensive than the first one. The brat kid makes reference to his mothers age by calling her old at 37. Now, how the hell is that going to make people want to buy your product?
    I dont want people to loose their jobs at Toyota but these commericals will hurt their bottom line and make my Ford stock more profitable.
    I want people to be sucessful and happy but good god Toyota is in bad shape if they think they can market like this.

  5. Pingback: Shirl Agrees Toyota Highlander Commercials are Lame |

  6. I hate this ad and so do my kids. We make fun of Nathan and call him ‘Repulsive Ralph’ and ‘Sickening Stan’ and ‘Vomitous Vick’. My kids have some more involved nicknames for him that they’re not supposed to say and that I can’t print here but that I secretely agree with. We dont respect spoiled brats around here. Spoiled brats need to walk to school and scrub the floors. Spoiled brats are soft and ignorant. That’s what I teach my kids. Toyota needs to wise up that most of America are hard working people and dont teach their kids to be nasty little brats like this kid in the commercial. Punk ass brat.

  7. Pingback: Reed Agrees Toyota is Lame |

  8. What a horrible commercial. The little brat is very annoying, his hair is ridiculous. I will go out of my way to not buy toyota after watching this ad, it teachers kids and our society wrong lessons and is a huge turn off.
    Very upsetting that Toyota does not care about social responsibility.

  9. The instant I saw this ad, l thought that the idea that a child would term their parent as “lame” was ludicrous and disrespectful. It was quite a turn-off, and I would be more likely not to purchase the Highlander. I am glad they have since revised this ad.

  10. nice toyota info

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  12. Makes me NOT want to buy a Toyota. It shows a child disrespecting his parents and since when does it matter what the child is riding in as long as it is safe and gets he/she from point A to point B?
    I think everyone should boycott Toyota for them being so “lame”.

  13. This friggen’ commercial makes my blood boil. Toyota’s screwed itself this time. I’ve been trying to register a complaint on their website, but have not been successful. I hope this spoiled little brat tone sinks their market share bigtime.

  14. Frankly, I am excited to see that i’m not the only person offended by these commercials. Each person here was actually offended enough to sit down to their Pc and search about it. The overall feeling that I get while watching the Highlander commercial is that because i can’t afford a new Toyota Highlander, My children should consider me a “lame person” or a Failure as a provider in their eyes. Toyota has taken away a priceless quality from me. My own children’s respect!!

  15. I just saw the ad and came straight to my computer so i could express my outrage at Toyota CATERING to children to sell a car. I owned Toyotas for years previously…I will no longer consider Toyota as a purchase option.

  16. These are horrible ads for too many reasons to discuss except for all the ones already mentioned . What is Toyota thinking ? They should not only pull the ads but apologize for insulting any of that were subjected to such drivel.

  17. My husband and I decided that if little Nathan were our child and concerned about being cool, we’d use his allowance for the next three months to buy him a skateboard to get around on.

    But don’t be so quick to criticize Toyota’s effort. This bit of psychology highlights a larger doctrine pervasive to our capitalistic society. Don’t believe me? Ask yourself, how important is that diamond ring to the institution of marriage in the US? Even men and women who choose not to wear them are certainly aware of the in-group/out-group psychology of a large, shiny rock.

  18. Yes Murali, go to http://toyotaislame and sign the petition there, then write a letter to the CEO of Toyota and tell him to take those commercials off the air. You’re right on target, those commercals are awful and have to go!

  19. OFFENSIVE!!! I am so disgusted by the new Toyota campaign. Little blonde boy talking about his parents being dorks for the car they drive. He’d rather ride with Mrs. So & So than be seen with his parents in their dorky car. RUDE! Sending a message to kids that it’s cool to judge one another based on the car you drive or the car your parents own is twisted! As far as I’m concerned, Toyota can go straight to HELL!

  20. Pingback: Will an Apathetic Public Allow Toyota to Undermine their Values? |

  21. I thought I was the only parent who was offended by this ad, and I am shocked to see that so many people feel that way. We try so hard to teach good values to the kids and this ad really bothered me a lot. Every time, we saw this ad in the TV, we would flip channels right away. Is there a way to voice our concern to Toyota who is behaving so irresponsibly. I am up for buying a new car and guess what car I am NOT buying???

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  23. Sign the petition! Stop Toyota from undermining family values!
    Toyota is Lame< Follow on Twitter – @toyota_is_lame

  24. Patrick Allanach

    Write to air your frustrations with these distasteful commercials. Personally my feelings: I am hoping that with these continued efforts to minimize bullying amongst our youth we can petition Toyota to stop airing the appalling Highlander commercials targeted at kids and their parents.

    The commercials feature several older vehicles which are portrayed as embarrassing to school children. Toyota’s solution, buy a Highlander that isn’t “lame.” In these tough economic times many families can’t afford to drive anything but an old van or station wagon. Encouraging children to discriminate against those who families don’t drive a Highlander or better is simply terrible.

    These commercials are irresponsible, especially under such times of extreme bullying and rash of young suicides. Toyota is perpetuating this “epidemic.” We need to hold corporations accountable for these distasteful decisions and actions.

    I would be very appreciative to see these commercials removed and a formal apology issued.

  25. Right on everyone! I just set up Toyota is Lame Let’s team up and steamroll this stuff right off the air!

  26. from:

    The commercial was clearly not well conceived by the ad company that was paid by Toyota to promote their brand—not to mention totally out of touch with the current economic situation. Join the movement on facebook—hopefully we will be able to band together in numbers online.

  27. I couldn’t agree with each of your comments more. I am a new mom looking to purchase a larger vehicle and lately noticing all the wrong messages that television programs and commercials are bringing to our children. This commercial upset me on all the levels that have been mentioned here – and the fact that it is on the air is awful. It has definitely made me decide NOT to buy a Toyota, regardless of the model…and makes me want to get rid of the current Toyota I drive that much quicker. My husband and I will be writing a letter directly to Toyota letting them know how we feel about this campaign. If any of you are interested in joining us in sharing our thoughts with them, please let me know!

    • I wrote mine already and received an apology statement. I hope every parents follows suit and write them like I did. I lost my job and my truck in order to keep my house from going into foreclosure. I had to watch this commercial with my fourteen year old son and I was almost brought to tears, because when I voluntarily gave up my truck, it was hard for him to understand and listen to be ask people to take me to the grocery store. What was Toyota thinking? They weren’t.

  28. Pingback: Toyota, it is not just me. « Just Words

  29. I have never gone out of my way to express an opinion on an ad. However, these “lame parents” ads are offensive in so many ways it’s hard to know where to begin. First of all, that children should have the power to “shame” their parents into choosing a particular car — what? That a child should even be aware at that age that a car is lame or not — huh? If I were ever interested in a Toyota, I would immediately change my mind based solely on this ad campaign,

  30. I hate these commercials. Was never partial to Toyota and this does not help one bit. If “the kid” thinks the car is “lame” then he can get a job and buy his own car…meanwhile “Shut up and ride!”

  31. I am appalled by the commercials. As a teacher, I have seen many disrespectful children and I feel that examples in the media have helped to create this epidemic of entitlement and disrespect we see in children today. Also its morally repugnant to make poor children feel ashamed of their families. I have bought several Toyotas over the years but no more. They are morally bankrupt with this type of advertising.

  32. The world is self-involved enough as it is and now you have a 8 year old with a smart mouth telling people your lame if your middle class and maybe can’t afford a NEW car….people are losing their homes,jobs and your depicting this kid as kids now a day have learned—me me me me me me me Our country is going down the toilet and this is all you have to offer. GROW UP…

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  34. Since when does it matter if a kid ‘thinks’ his parents are ‘lame’, what matters is that parents be “parents” good decisions in life, taught to thier children. Not all parents can afford to buy expensive cars, they buy what makes sense and gets them from point a to b and back. – Toyota – forget it.

  35. This commercial SUCKS. What a crappy message all around. Get a clue Toyota. Then again, I guess the owners of toyota don’t really care much about OUR society.

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  38. I’m appalled, and after the political ad season, it’s not easy to make me sick, but Toyota has done it. I would NEVER buy a Toyota when they are obviously run by a bunch of shallow morons. Wow, what a crass bunch of BS.

  39. These commercials are terrible!!!

  40. Yeah, not feelin’ it.

    Too similar and not as good as some of the Swagger Wagon stuff.

  41. I can’t stand the smart*** kid in this Highlander commercial. If he were mine, I’d make him walk everywhere. Kids allowed to run the show in a family are so off-putting, I wouldn’t buy this car just to spite the little twerp.

  42. I don’t care for this commercial it teaches kids that material items should be the most important thing on their list. It also teaches kids to call their parents lame.Which is just awful. It promotes bulling and teaches kids to make fun of other kids with not such fancy cars as themselves.

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