Is your Toyota Corolla an exciting sports car? No. No it’s not. But Toyota wants you associate their brand with racing and performance through a series of six ads we’ll check out today.
We’ve seen this kind of racing promotion/advertising before and we’ll see it again later. But today we’re focusing on Toyota’s racing ads.
In alphabetical order, we’ll start this journey through the six old ads with this one from June 2006:
The ad above shows the (apparently) limited edition Darrell Waltrip edition of the Toyota Tundra.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I don’t follow any automotive racing sports. I don’t care about NASCAR, Formula 1, 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of LeMons, none of that. I don’t care. Frankly, I’m not a very competitive person so this whole endeavor to try to prove that you’re better than someone else seems rather pointless to me (be the best person you can be — that’s all that matters in the end).
That said, I’ve heard the name Darrell Waltrip (I had to check on the exact spelling of his name) but I really can’t tell you if he was a NASCAR driver or F1 driver or something else. It just doesn’t matter to me.
What does matter to me is websites. And this one is promoting Toyota.com/DW (which I, even a noob like me, can see the DW stands for Darryl Waltrip).
I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these special Darrell Waltrip Tundras on the road. And, frankly, if I did, I’d think someone modified their truck to try to look “cool” or “fast.” I don’t think I would give it a second glance, really.
So how about Toyota.com/DW? Today, we get this:
Okay, that’s not terrible but it’s also not great. The screengrab above shows Toyota.com‘s generic Page Not Found page. Clearly, the /dw site section is no longer in use.
Does Toyota still work with Waltrip? I don’t know and frankly I don’t want to waste my time and energy trying to answer that – there are better things for me to focus my efforts on. So, assuming Toyota and Darrell have parted ways, it maybe makes sense to let /dw expire. But it does look a little sloppy. A redirect to any current racing efforts would be better than this.
Not great, Toyota.
Okay, let’s move on. Up next in our alphabetical journey is an older ad from June 2001:
Oh. My. God. That’s a lot of text. Really, who takes the time to read all of that? This ad definitely looks like something that was cobbled together by a committee including one person who wanted a complete narrative, someone else who wanted some go-fast pictures, and an overworked designer who tried his/her best to cobble everything into something at least somewhat visually appealing.
Truth: I just spent the last two minutes trying to find the website in this sea of text. AND I JUST EDITED THIS IMAGE A FEW DAYS AGO! Maybe this kind of text-heavy ad was acceptable nearly two decades ago (there did seem to be a lot of them). Today, however, it seems a little over-done.
You’ll be happy to know that I did rediscover the website in this ad. It’s way down in the bottom middle, right below the Toyota logo (on the white/grey side, not the yellow side):
Man, that’s some tiny font.
And that tiny font suggests we readers point our Netscape browsers to Toyota.com/motorsports.
These days, in 2020, that URL takes us here:
That looks familiar. It’s the same Page Not Found error we saw above.
Now, I’m a Honda fan and will be the first to admit it. But I think Toyotas are pretty good cars, too. And I think Toyota, as a company on the whole, does a lot of things right. That’s why it’s disappointing to see two missed opportunities back to back. You can do better, Toyota people.
Next up, Toyota focuses on a specific motor sport, NASCAR.
I don’t know if nine wins is a good thing (I suppose it’s better than eight wins?). Or 13 poles (whatever that means)?
At least the text is easier to read than that previous ad with its verbose prose. There’s a little more text, tucked up into the upper right-hand corner, which includes a reference to Toyota’s NASCAR site:
Nice and simple, the ad suggests visiting Toyota.com/nascar. And, considering Toyota still has a presence in NASCAR still, some 15 years after this ad appeared, the site section would still make sense, yes?
Just like the previous two examples, we see the site section no longer exists. Instead, we get Toyota’s default Page Not Found page. This isn’t looking good for Toyota.
Let’s move on. Here’s an ad from an October, 2006 magazine:
I’ll show my motorsports ignorance again by admitting that I don’t know what these three series are that Toyota is so proud to participate in. Don’t all racers just try to race as much as then can, everywhere they can? Maybe it’s a big deal to be in three separate series? I don’t know.
But I do know a few things about websites. And this ad gives us this little nugget at the bottom of the text in the lower-right corner:
I assume a Pit Pass is some sort of credential/pass that allows you to get into the racing pit where all the support teams are stationed (I do know enough about racing to know what the Pit is). The use of /pitpass in the URL is a bit unusual as there’s no mention of it elsewhere in the ad. Is there supposed to be extra Pit-related content at Toyota.com/pitpass? Is it a place to order your own Pit Pass? Let’s take a look today, some 14 years later:
It looks like we may never get answers to those questions because, once again, we’re getting Toyota’s generic Page Not Found message.
This pattern is particularly disappointing because, so far, we have only seen site sections that all reside on the actual Toyota.com site. Setting up a redirect for each of these sections to some more relevant content (than simply a Page Not Found message) should be a snap.
Our fifth site for today is yet another site section that was featured in this ad from July of 2000, the oldest ad in this group:
The contrast on the ad doesn’t look great in this scan, though the actual page isn’t quite as dark. And it doesn’t help that the little thing that looks like a spiral or tornado is actually a tear in the paper that crumpled up.
That all is irrelevant because the part we care about is at the bottom of the lower block of text:
This time, the site section being promoted is /trd for Toyota Racing Development. We’ve seen failure after failure of these site sections so far today, but this is what we get when we go to Toyota.com/trd today:
Okay! Now we’re getting somewhere. Finally! Here we have an example of what should have been done with every other ad in this grouping.
Instead of getting a Page not Found error, Toyota.com/trd redirects to Toyota.com/trdpro, which is a valid site eager to tell you about all of Toyota’s tough trucks.
A quick glance of Toyota.com/trdpro shows little about NASCAR or other racing. But it’s at least a topical page with information some people might want to find.
While this looks like a win, there are actually two pain points here. First, this is the oldest ad in the list of ads reviewed today. It’s not like this was a recent ad from just a few years ago. No, obviously Toyota has been holding onto the /trd site section for a couple of decades now and is (smartly) not letting it die. It hurts to know that more recent site sections are not given that kind of love.
The second pain point is that /trd proves Toyota can set up redirects for site sections. If all the site sections failed, one might be led to think that redirects are simply not possible within the content management system Toyota uses. But that benefit-of-the-doubt evaporates as soon as we see a working example of a redirect like this.
Come on Toyota! Set up more redirects!
Our final site promoting Toyota’s racing prowess is not a site section on Toyota.com but rather a stand-alone primary domain:
I do like those third-generation MR2s. I’ve never driven one but they seem like a blast.
And this ad suggests you can get even more out of your MR2 with some bolt-on parts from Toyota Racing Development. To find out more, we are encouraged to visit trdusa.com:
As a primary domain, this should be more challenging to maintain. Site sections like we saw in the other five ads in this grouping are typically easy to maintain as long as someone’s paying attention. But primary domains require regular renewal and a small but real cost to the company that can ad up if there are lots of domains in use.
So where is trdusa.com today?
Yes! This is what we like to see around here. The site is still alive and still shows relevant content. This is what proper site management should look like.
Thank you, Toyota, for letting us end this article on a high note.