toyota avalon (burgundy)*It’s no secret that Toyota consistently manufactures reliable vehicles.

But designers have upped the ante with the new, sleek, and now luxurious interpretation of the Avalon car.

Long gone are the days when Toyota allowed style to take a back seat—no pun intended—to solid technology and engineering. That’s not to say these components aren’t imperative to a good car. But who wants to drive an eye sore, even if it will take you from point a to point b if the journey calls for it? Not me, says Louis Williams, the man who serves as Chief Creative Officer of Burrell Communications in Chicago, a full-service marketing communications company affiliated with the Toyota brand, and responsible for the Avalon’s new spokesperson Mr. Idris Elba.

Recent co-action between Burrell and Toyota includes, the Prius “Those Who Get It, Get It” campaign featuring singer/songwriter Raphael Saadiq,as well as the American Advertising Foundation’s prestigious Ogilvy Award-winning “Are You Venza?” and Association of National Advertisers Multicultural Excellence Award-winning “Mark and Benny” campaign for Toyota RAV4.

“The campaign for the 2013 Toyota Avalon is called ‘Only the name remains,’” Williams explained to EUR’s Lee Bailey during a Toyota promotional event in Georgetown, Kentucky, home to one of Toyota’s largest manufacturing plants. “It’s a nod to how all the design things before in the past were thrown away. The only thing we kept was the name. So [again] it’s a nod to the new radical design that we have the for car.”

louis williams

Louis Williams, Chief Creative Officer, Burrell Communications

Buyers of the Avalon will be pleased to discover the many advancements integrated into the old model to make it anew. These include an improved, slicker contour of the vehicle, as well as highly evolved internal functions, capabilities and amenities, among other treats available to drivers. In that a considerable margin of Toyota’s output lacks immediate aesthetic appeal, the time to make a change was long overdue and has finally arrived, Williams believes.

“We often make great cars but we’ve been kind of getting kicked in the butt from a styling perspective,” he candidly acknowledged. “What Toyota has done is given the car some swag—some attitude. That’s really big because Toyota makes very dependable cars but the style may not be there. This company is not only stepping out of its comfort zone, it’s setting the pace for where the cars will be in the future.”

These sentiments are also shared by one of Toyota Motor Company’s chief executives, Wil James, who in 2010 became president of the company’s Kentucky based manufacturing facility where the Avalon is built.

“The Avalon has always been our top end Toyota and the entry into the Lexus brand,” James informed Bailey. “We consider it our flagship vehicle. We also recognize the need to add a little bit more sexiness to it; more sportiness to it; more agility. When you get an opportunity to drive the car you’ll feel the luxury.”

Wil James

Wil James, President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc.

The next chapter in the Avalon series also includes a partnership with famed British commodity Idris Elba. Not only is he the new face of one of Toyota’s signature models, but he is also the catalyst behind the manufacturer’s bold initiative to reach out to a more diverse, or rather “urban,” market. Burrell’s Williams tends to think that Elba’s involvement is a no-brainier.

“This [campaign] is new. This is bold. This is fresh. So we needed an actor that symbolizes the new freshness of the campaign. We looked at people and said there’s only one person. Idris is great. He’s [black]. He’s an international movie star. He’s sexy. He’s sleek. He’s a man’s man and of course a woman’s man. All of the attributes featured in the car fit his personality.”

Elba takes on the lead role in “Only the Name Remains,” a dramatic, spy-themed advertising campaign for the 2013 Toyota Avalon. The highly-anticipated campaign– and first-ever TV commercial for Elba – was created in collaboration with Burrell Communications and premiered on April 1 across broadcast, digital and print platforms. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Antony Hoffman, “Only the Name Remains” begins with three suspenseful television spots that follow Elba’s secret agent character on the run from an old enemy, taking his Avalon on a city-wide adventure. The third and final spot in the television series ends with a cliffhanger, directing the audience to experience the thrilling conclusion at

“It’s a interactive, virtual experience where you become the driver. It’s something like you’ve never seen before,” Williams described. “This is a really exciting campaign. It really steps out and gives Toyota energy that it’s never had before. From an African American perspective, to use an international black talent like Idris [Elba] is quite something different too.”

Toyota’s launch towards consumers of color is designed to promote and embrace the attitude and cultural diversity of current and future generations internationally. In pursuit of this goal, many steps have been taken to establish the Avalon as a respectable driver’s car among young 20 and 30-somethings looking for a new ride. That’s where DUB Magazine comes into play. The auto/publishing franchise is well-known for putting an opulent spin (yes, that includes rims) to anything with a motor and wheels. It’s the equivalent of fusing the Taj Mahal with a car. For your viewing pleasure, Toyota created a custom-made DUB Avalon. The automaker is also partnering with New York-based Alvin Ailey to have a presence at the dance company’s tour stops. It’s also getting into programs like the Soul Train Awards.

avalon (dub version)

2013 Toyota Avalon DUB version

 Todd Turner, president of auto market consultancy “Car Concepts”, says the new version of Avalon will get a lot of traction with African-American consumers and everyone else.

“I think [Toyota] has done an exceptional job of moving the needle with the car. It’s just going to up the brand to a lot of new customers.”

“I think now it does have an envy factor, and that’s a really good sign when you have a group who would not normally aspire to own one. And if it is aspirational for them now, it bodes well.”

Turner says research that he has done through the dealer networks with which he has relationships suggests the car — which went on sale late last year — is achieving that.

“Dealers say people who buy a Camry are looking at it. Anecdotal feedback these buyers are giving is that they really want one. There wasn’t that kind of aspiration for the prior model.”

In addition to diversifying their consumer-base, Will James says that one of Toyota’s primary objectives for the new year is simple … making damn good cars.

“We wanted to give the customer everything we could make to them in the price range of the Avalon,” he went on to say. “I’m pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish. We never stop. We’re always working on trying to make it better and we’ll continue. But we’re pretty proud of the product that we have now.”

Toyota Motor Sales (TMS),U.S.A., Inc. is the marketing, sales, distribution and customer service arm of Toyota, Lexus and Scion. Established in 1957, TMS markets products and services through a network of nearly 1,500 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealers which sold more than two million vehicles in 2012.

Toyota directly employs nearly 30,000 people in the U.S. and its investment here is currently valued at more than $18 billion. For more information about Toyota, visit

toyota avalon (white)