383. Ad of the Week: The Shuttle Shuttle.
Sep 18, 2012 at 10:32AM

Well, it's been awhile since I've posted regularly here. Chalk that up to taking a new CD job and having very little spare time to um, spare. I have been using social media to share all the things that are of interest pretty much every day, so be sure to find me at the links at the bottom. (And Fifty Flags fans, Hawaii is just around the corner. We'll step up the regularity of that project too.) Anyway, I thought this was a good time to bring back the Ad of the Week.

As we all know, NASA has been winding down the Space Shuttle program over the past year, going so far as to sell 3 of the 4 active shuttles to various museums. Endeavour, the last of the shuttles to be sold, will be going to the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Part 1 of the journey will require being strapped on top of a 747 from Florida to LAX. Part 2 is infinitely more tricky. The shuttle will be transported on a trailer, 12 miles through suburban LA to the museum. The LA Times likens the trip to moving a five-story apartment building on a truck bed through the city.

According to NPR, taking the shuttle apart was never an option. Apparently, NASA was pretty good at building these things but they never factored in ease of disassembly into their designs. So, the city is raising power lines, lifting light poles, cutting down tress (they promise to plant two for every one cut down), and figuring out which streets can bear the heavy 170,000 pound space beast. At some key points along the way, the engineers have as little as six inches of clearance to squeeze into.

All pretty cool stuff, but why is this our ad of the week? And why might it be the Ad of the Year? Most likely you have seen the pickup truck spots where Dodge, Ford, Chevy and Toyota pull all sorts of heavy contraptions under all sorts of odd circumstances to stake their claim as having the most capable of towing packages. In short the most muscle for the most manly of truck-driving men. This unique event provides perhaps the most graphic and visually extreme demonstration of towing one could possibly imagine and one of the truck manufacturers are going to benefit from it. That OEM is Toyota, and their Tundra model (stock no less) will be towing the shuttle to its final resting place. 

The Tundra Endeavour:

So how did this come to be? How did Toyota pull this off? It appears that Toyota had a working relationship with the Science Center already. According to the press release, "Participation in the transportation of the shuttle is part of an ongoing partnership between TMS and the Science Center in an effort to provide support and awareness of the space program and continuing education of the public through exhibits and programs. Toyota currently has a Tundra truck on display in a Science Center exhibit demonstrating the physics of leverage. The tow Tundra will replace the existing Tundra and will be on display after the Endeavour exhibit opens on October 30, 2012."  The press release states the 'event' was a collaboration with the Science Center, Toyota and agency Saatchi & Saatchi LA, but whoever game up with the idea is a genius. An opportunistic, marketing genius. I doff my cap in their general direction.

The Challenge Intro Video:

Toyota has set up a site where visitors can follow the Shuttle's journey as of yesterday, though most of the content has yet to be released. One of the better visuals that has been released so far (and would make excellent old school ads) are the schematics of the truck pulling the Shuttle. They don't need a headline or more body copy or anything. They're perfect (at least until we have real images of this whole thing going down. Those promise to be even more ridiculous.)

Yep. A Toyota pulling a Space Shuttle:

If you're kind of a nerd and like me are wondering if you can find the directions the Shuttle will be taking through the LA neighborhoods, well, you can Google it. I'd recommend doing the street map view for a better reality check.

Looks Like a Tight Fit:

The Shuttle Shuttle is a once in a lifetime event and Toyota is taking advantage of it in a way that isn't terribly obvious (ie: it doesn't commercialize the experience too much). They could single-handedly put an end to an entire genre of television truck demos. If Chevy or Ford shows an ad of their trucks pulling something heavy, all Toyota has to do is point to this. "We just pulled The Shuttle through Los Angeles." Way, way more dramatic and convincing than anything the other manufacturers could tow behind their rigs. Sure, there is a special setup and trailer that is being pulled which makes the whole thing feasible, but that's not something the public will focus on. All they will see is a Toyota pulling a Space Shuttle. And for a brand, you couldn't make this up. (Full disclosure: I'm still a Silverado guy myself.)

I can't wait to see this event unfold over the two days it will take, October 12-13. Congrats to the whole team involved.

Article originally appeared on Graphicology (http://www.graphicology.com/).
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