MY2011 Subaru Forester

Off to a Good Start (BRONZE)
Best Integrated Program (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Subaru Canada
Ted Lalka, Vice President, Product Planning & Marketing
Geoff Craig, Director Marketing

Agency Credits: DDB Canada
Michael Davidson, Senior VP, Business Unit Director
Peter Brough, Account Supervisor
Julia Morris, Account Executive
Scott Barr, Account Executive
James Loftus, Manager PR
Greg Vallentin, Senior Consultant PR
Parker Mason, Community Cultivation
Sarah Thornley, Account Executive
Tony Johnstone, SVP Director of Strategic Planning
Todd Mackie, Co-Creative Director
Denise Rosseto, Co-Creative Director
Matt Antonello, Associate Creative Director – Copywriter
Paul Riss, Associate Creative Director- Art Director
Andrew Schulze, Director of Broadcast Production
Cathy Kim, Digital Producer
Rose-Ella Morrison, Director of Print Production
Tanya Foulem, Account Executive

Crossover Notes:
Crossover Notes: All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2012 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 3. Core Equity versus Price & Promotion.
Crossover Note 14. Refreshing a continuing campaign.
Crossover Note 16. When a campaign stumbles.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):December 2010 – June 2011
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: December 8, 2010
Base Period as a Benchmark: December 2010 – June 2010

a) Overall Assessment
Following on the heels of our highly-successful launch of the re-designed 2009 Subaru Forester, sales in Canada of this small-SUV began to flatten in 2010 and were in need of a momentum boost. [Crossover Note 16]

In early 2011, we were again tasked with launching a Forester model in the Canadian market. This time, our challenge was compounded by the fact that instead of a re-design, the 2011 Forester contained only minor aesthetic changes.

We knew that anything we did needed to jar consumers attention, get noticed and be BOLD.

b) Resulting Business Objectives
- attract the attention of small SUV intenders in a cluttered market long-dominated by behemoths Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4

- do this without a “re-design” story, and with a small share of voice (1.3%) compared to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai(each with over 6.6%)

- hit Subaru’s sales target of 3,855 units during the campaign period, essentially maintaining sales

- do this while maintaining Subaru's full margin price (roughly 10% above competition) and without any special incentive levels [Crossover Note 3]

c) Annual Media Budget
$3 - $4 million

d) Geographic Area
National Canada

a) Analysis and Insight
We were void of a unique, re-design story so needed to dig deep to see what insights we might be able to uncover.

For this, we undertook an exhaustive, two-week qualitative research tour to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Attendees included Forester owners, competitive brand intenders, dealership owners, and employees. The competitive intenders were classified as:
o Planning on buying a small SUV/crossover vehicle in the next two years
o Considering small SUV options such as a Toyota RAV4, Honda CRV or other
o Professionals aged 30-49 years with HHI of $75K+
o Intending to spend a minimum of $30,000 on their next small SUV
o Non-rejecters of Subaru

The results, despite the success of the 2009 Forester launch, showed that many intenders still weren’t aware of:

o Forester’s new traditional SUV styling
o Subaru’s Japanese heritage

In addition, we confirmed that styling was still the primary motivator. Armed with these insights it became clear that we would need an attention-grabbing campaign like no other.

b) Communication Strategy
Not only did we need to get the attention of Japanese SUV intenders, we also needed to surprise them with an attractive, stylish option they didn’t know existed. Knowing this, our communications strategy became:

A rugged and attractive true Japanese SUV.

Now, more than ever, it’s simply impossible to get a Japanese engineered Forester without noticing just how ruggedly sexy it really is. No other true SUV looks this good.

a) Media Used
• TV
o :30 & :60 English and French
o :30 English Customized Dealership Version

• Print
o Pre-Launch Activity
o “Reveal”
o Three Launch Executions
o SUNshine Boy
o Dealership Print Support

• POP: Banners, Pole-Signs, Mirror-Danglers, Life-sized Sumo cardboard cutouts

• Online
o Banner Ads
o Video Egg
o Homepage
o Landing Page

• Social Media
o Cultivation & Seeding
o YouTube Channel
o Feature-focused Vignettes
o Online Flip-Book Animations of Print Shoot
o Facebook Ads

• PR: Toronto and Vancouver International Autoshows

b) Creative Discussion
There was no shortage of great creative concepts developed on the platform of a rugged and attractive true Japanese SUV. But there always seemed to be a big Sumo wrestler staring us in the face. [Crossover Note 14]

The resounding success of the 2009 Forester campaign meant that the Sumos had built up equity as an iconic representation of Subaru. People remembered the campaign, and for the most part really enjoyed it. It was an image that we couldn't walk away from. And in the immortal words of Justin Timberlake, we needed to “bring sexy back.” This unfolded by medium as follows:


In a tribute to the “hot-rod” girls found in car magazines, we placed Sumos on the hoods of our small SUV to announce that with the 2011 Subaru Forester “Sexy Comes Standard.”

Humorous and “sexy” vignettes of Sumos seductively eating strawberries, licking ice cream cones and cooling off with a water-bottle-bath helped reinforce that the 2011 Forester is one attractive small SUV.

As soon as the TV launched (on Valentine’s Day!) it was an immediate sensation, garnering attention in such publications as the Financial Post and Japan’s Wall Street Journal), and clocking over 1,000,000 YouTube views in its first month.

And as a testament to just how strong the idea was, Subaru’s Dealership Network fell in love with the creative. We were asked to create a unique version for them to help further drive traffic in-dealership.


In print, beautiful shots of the Forester in both rugged and urban settings set the backdrop for our star of the campaign, Byamba to show off his best pin-up poses.

To launch this in a unique fashion, we created a page-over-page spread that played a trick on the eye by revealing what looked to be a naked Byamba on the first page, only to reveal the ad in its entirety on the page that followed.


In a great display of integrated thinking we worked with Subaru and our Media Partner OMD to secure Byamba as the Toronto Sun’s SUNshine BOY. These print pieces were accompanied by a witty profile of the world’s most famous Sumo Wrestler. Running the week prior to the Toronto International AutoShow, they invited readers to come to the show for their chance to get their picture taken with Byamba at the Subaru booth.


To bring the photo shoot to life, we created videos using time-lapse photography, condensing a whole day of shooting into :30 second vignettes. These videos played out online on the branded YouTube page as well as on Subaru Canada’s Facebook page.


We used a similar treatment to the launch print ad by having Byamba appear as though he was naked, only to expose his sexy pin-up pose with the Forester at the end. These banners ran on targeted Canadian auto-sites and click-through traffic was driven to the campaign landing page.


Video Eggs brought the TV spot to life on auto and lifestyle sites online. When users scrolled over the banner, they were teased with a 5-second clip of the TV spot which, when expanded, allowed them to view the 30-second commercial in its entirety. The expanded banner also let them view the stop-motion print videos and “Too Hot for TV” vignettes that were created from some of the TV’s sauciest moments. Links within the video eggs drove consumers back to the campaign landing page at for more campaign content and features of the 2011 Forester.


The campaign landing page was skinned with sexy campaign imagery and housed campaign content such as the TV Film, along with links to Forester product pages.


We outreached to influential sites to let them know about the Sexy Forester content on Subaru Canada’s YouTube channel. These sites included key automotive sites (such as Jalopnik and AutoBlog), as well as video and culture sites based in Canada or with large Canadian readerships.


Online, we intercepted conversations about Small SUVs with links that led prospective buyers to highly-entertaining videos that spoke to the Forester's features and to the fact that nothing could separate sexy from the 2011 Subaru Forester.


In-dealership support led to larger-than-life Banners, Pole-signs and Mirror Danglers.


Canadians had the chance to meet Byamba at both the Toronto and Vancouver AutoShows, giving attendees the opportunity to pose for a sexy photo-shoot with him.

c) Media Discussion
The campaign began with a soft launch in print in December 2010 and January 2011 re-introducing Byamba to the Canadian market. TV kicked off the full campaign in the second week of February with :60 versions airing across Canada. There was simultaneous messaging on, the campaign landing page, and the customized YouTube page. Print and online activities started during the second week of the TV flight when :30 versions took over from the :60s. In-dealership POP launched in conjunction with the Print and Online and provided a strong link to the campaign at the point of purchase. Social media seeding and cultivation ran the entire length of the campaign and drove our target to the campaign landing page and YouTube for unique content and details on the Forester.

a) Sales/Share Results
Forester sales rose dramatically when the TV spot hit the airwaves, rising from 757 units in the 6 weeks prior to the TV launch to 1,182 units (a difference of +56%) during the TV flight. Likewise, for the 6-month campaign period, sales exceeded target by 11%, equating to 4,267 units sold vs. the target of 3,855 units. This helped SCI achieve an all-time record month in March with 2,700 units retailed.

Additionally, during the two month pre-launch phase of the campaign (December & January) sales rose by an average of +15% per month versus the same period last year.

Note that during the campaign period, many of Subaru’s major competitors’ were in decline. Toyota was averaging -18% per month, and Honda and Mazda were both averaging -10%.

We created a spot that people wanted to watch. In fact, thanks to over a million views on YouTube, 43,304 Facebook engagements, and over 4,000 blog and forum posts, we know that our sexy Sumos were actively searched out. Of the 2,534 people who have voted on YouTube over 95% "like" this video. During the campaign, the spot also became the #1 most viewed autos and vehicles video in Canada, and one of the top 5 most viewed autos and vehicles videos worldwide!

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion
It is clear that there is a direct relationship between advertising for the Forester campaign and the sales results. Firstly, sales skyrocketed when the TV campaign hit the market. Additionally, Forester was the leader in sales vs. all other Subaru models throughout the full 6 months of the campaign.

Secondly, when the campaign was in full swing (March 2011) Subaru achieved an all-time record month. And the pre-launch activity also showed significant sales results, as noted above.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels: The budget of $3.1 million was for media and production combined. This is very small, especially when compared to the competition.

Pricing: We maintained Subaru's premium/full margin price during the campaign.

Distribution Changes: 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: We did not offer any special consumer incentives (e.g. 0% lease/finance, $0 down, gas gift cards, etc.) as most other automotive manufacturers were (and still are) doing, despite the fact that the Forester pricing sits at roughly 10% higher than that of its direct competition.

Other Potential Causes: The sales results can be directly related to the Forester campaign because there were no other significant communications, sales or marketing efforts going on during the campaign period for Subaru. And, most importantly, there were no meaningful changes to the vehicle itself from the 2009 Model Year.