One of the biggest potential pitfalls when managing old websites occurs when you come up with a clever URL to promote your new product (in this case, cars).
Throughout this series, we’ll see lots of examples of car makers using unique website domains (top-level domains) to promote their new cars.
And this makes sense. A website like TheNewIS.com is more catchy and probably easier to type than something more pedestrian like Lexus.com/theNewIS (I don’t know if that ever existed, but it could, I suppose?).
The problem with a custom domain (like TheNewIS.com) is that the owner then needs to renew that domain every year or every few years. As anyone who has bought a domain can attest, the cost of buying and renewing domains is not that much – maybe $100 for a year or three.
That cost should be no problem for a major international manufacturer like Toyota. However, the need to renew those domains is the type of tiny detail that can easily get lost or over overlooked. And in some cases, the manufacturer may actively decide to let the old URL die.
That’s where we come in. Today, we have a trio of Lexus websites that are more than 10 years old (and, while I like Lexi as the plural for Lexus, that’s apparently not accurate). So let’s see where these domains live now.
The first domain, mentioned above, is http://www.TheNewIS.com. The site appeared in an ad in a November, 2005 magazine that featured a picture of the then-new IS and its mirror image.
Regardless of whether you see a butterfly, or a two-headed serpent (as the ad suggests — I don’t see either — I see two cars) I do find it interesting that the mirror image car (the one on the left) even shows the corporate logo backward. Maybe nobody at Lexus cared, but I imagine at least one marketing manager would have protested at any impure thought of displaying their coveted logo backward.
Buried in the tiny print in the bottom right is the call to action to “visit TheNewIS.com.”
Anyway, where is TheNewIS.com now?
Ouch! Not good.
The story gets worse. After checking whois.com, we see that Toyota still owns the domain. They’re just choosing to do nothing with it. That’s particularly disappointing as Lexus actually does have an updated version of the IS sedan coming in 2021 (this article is being written in mid 2020).
How hard would it be for someone at Toyota to point TheNewIS.com to a more relevant page? Not hard at all.
UPDATE! – July 19, 2020
After revisiting this article, I checked TheNewIS.com and now it’s delivering a relevant page about the 2020 IS. Sweet!
I doubt anyone at Toyota read this article and made the change, but it’s good to see the URL is now working again.
Next up, in a June 2006 magazine, this other ad appeared for the new ES:
I do like some good light painting! But wouldn’t the car need to be going in reverse to paint the light that way in a long-exposure shot? And what about the red tail lights? Never mind — I’m overthinking it.
What we DO want to focus on is the website. Once again, Lexus went with a custom domain to promote the car, encouraging readers in the lower right to go to AllNewES.com.
Hmmm… will we really find it illuminating? This is what comes up now:
Whoa! Hold on a second. Seriously? So AllNewES.com now redirects to the main Lexus site. But you couldn’t do this for TheNewIS.com mentioned above? At the time of this screengrab, the homepage of Lexus.com rotated through several slides promoting various cars, including a special page on the new IS.
While, yes, good for you Toyota for not letting your old domain die entirely, why does AllNewES.com live on and point to the main Lexus site, where TheNewIS.com was left to die? On one hand, I applaud Toyota for doing something (anything) somewhat relevant with the old ES site, the inconsistency between the old ES site and old IS site is very disappointing.
Finally, the newest ad in the trio is from February 2007. This one is promoting the automatic parallel parking features of the then-new LS, the flagship sedan of the Lexus lineup:
I do like the clever word play, making you look back and forth, though it’s a bit confusing at first. Nice joke, Lexus. The ad also promotes AllNewLS.com.
Is the Lexus flagship worthy of a domain that will persist for years and years and years? Fast forward more than a decade and…
Ugh. Really Lexus? You’re letting this happen again? Why are you not following the example set by AllNewES.com above? It’s not that hard to point an old URL to your main site. Because, yes, whois.com is showing that Toyota still owns the domain, so it should be possible.
All told, I think this presents an interesting example of how website policies may vary within an individual company. While we’ve seen consistent website management within a single company before, that’s not always a guarantee in this world.