It’s the viral video hit of the summer, featuring a tricked out ride and banging hip-hop beats complete with a hard-rolling mack daddy and a fast-talking momma. And two kids.
"Where our kids at? Where our kids at?" ask acting leads Rachael Drummond and Brian Huskey in a hip-hop cadence while striking faux-gang signs. Then Huskey looks at Drummond and says: “No seriously, honey, where are the kids?”
"They’re right there," says Drummond, pointing at two cherubic children standing next to a newly redesigned 2010 Toyota Sienna -- their “Swagger Wagon.”
It’s all part of a Toyota advertising campaign for the new Sienna that’s been viewed more than 5 million times on YouTube.
The joke is that Drummond and Huskey are hardly “Straight Outta Compton” -- more like just back from Ikea. Drummond is a 30-something blonde (more “soccer mom” than cougar) and Huskey is a balding, positively dorky dad. The riff on the traditional bling-bling hip-hop video is hilarious, while never overstepping the boundaries of taste.
The ad has certainly raised the profile of Toyota’s minivan among its target market: Young parents with a couple of kids in tow who are looking for something a bit more edgy in the traditional -- and hitherto unhip -- minivan sector.
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“We are always looking to create entertaining marketing that people respond to,” said Toyota’s Sona Iliffe-Moon “We wanted to show today’s parents that owning a minivan doesn’t mean they need to be fitted for mom jeans or immediately banned from Facebook.”
Sienna sales have been up dramatically since April, though whether the ad spot -- which was posted to YouTube on May 2 -- had much to do with that is questionable.
Drummond, who grew up in Sonoma, CA, and is pregnant with her first child, says she’s just bought her own Toyota for her growing family. Though its a new Rav4 rather than a Sienna, she’s “madly in love with it.” She’ll step up to a Sienna when the time is right, she says, "Or if I have twins."
Drummond says she landed the spot by auditioning in Hollywood. She really wanted the gig, as she knew the commercial’s director, Jody Hill, and his work with musical collaborators Black Iris Music.
Though much of the comedic hip-hop gestures are improvised, Drummond says she and Huskey had to learn the two-and-a-half minute rap by heart. Her acting experience showed she was up to the task -- previously she had found minor fame in a series of skits rapping as Hillary Clinton that aired on Fox News and others. But how does this major exposure feel for Drummond, who migrated from the New York theater scene to Hollywood in 2001?
“I love it, obviously. It’s like winning the lottery. I don’t get a great deal of recognition in public but I probably appear differently in the spots.”
Drummond will soon appear as a pregnant mom in a show called “Huge” on the ABC Family network.
Huskey, a North Carolina photographer-turned-comedian who performs most Friday nights with the Upright Citizens Brigade here in Los Angeles -- and drives a Toyota Prius -- says while he’s not frequently recognized in public, he really appreciates his new-found fame. “I’ve gotten a lot of Facebook posts, I’ve got virtual fame,” he says.
He also collaborates with the online comedy site “Funny or Die,” although he cautions that some of his work there is more risque.
Huskey says the largely improvised dance moves in the video were a “loose approximation” of instructions given to the pair by a choreographer. “It was super fun,” he says.
The production company behind the spot, L.A.-based Caviar Content, was fortunate to find both actors, but particularly Huskey. Michael Sagul, at Caviar, says Huskey was the second-to-last actor out of about 400 to audition.
Caviar worked with the Los Angeles unit of advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi on the commercial, which Sagul says “dovetailed” with the ongoing Sienna ad campaign that premiered during the Winter Olympics. The rap was penned by copywriter Donnell Johnson.
Drummond says working with the children in the ad -- who are both triplets, meaning there were actually six kids in total on the set -- was “incredible.”
"You get the one that’s in the best mood at the time. They don’t quite understand what’s going on but they were real pleasers, and their parents were great, too.”
Sagul says the idea to have two sets of triplets on set was the result of child-acting regulations.
"You can only work with kids three hours a day, so you need to have a lot of kids," he says. Enough, as it were, to fill a capacious people mover like the Sienna. So it’s clear then where the kids are at. And the moms and dads, too.