Back to nature with Burrell’s Toyota Rav4 campaign

Scene from the “Inner City, Outdoors” 30-second Toyota spot in which best friends go kayaking.

While many car campaigns targeting African Americans skew toward adventures in urban settings, Toyota long-time multicultural agency, Burrell Communications, is showing audiences how to discover — or re-discover — the great outdoors.

Toyota Rav4 Platinum edition’s massive national ”Discover Nature” campaign consists of one 60-second spot, one 30-second spot, three 2-minute digital videos, radio, print and social media.

Burrell SVP/CCO Lewis Williams, who led the agency’s creative team, says the idea for the campaign emanated from a popular back-to-nature movement now happening among African Americans. It serves as a chance to escape the pressure of the city and, according to Williams, “to breathe again.”

“You know, we’re an agricultural people. Many of us, or our relatives, came from the South. We grew our own food and connected to nature. Now there’s a movement to leave the stress of the cities behind and get back outdoors,” he adds.

In the “Inner City, Outdoors’” 30-second spot and its 60-second extended version (seen on Toyota’s Facebook Showcase page), two young men friends brave a river with their kayaks. Produced by Contrast Eye of LA, the spots where shot over two days 15-20 miles outside of San Francisco, near Skywalker Ranch.

Long form videos take viewers on “The Road to Discovery.”

“The Road to Discovery,” like all three long-form videos, has a cinema verite feel about it, as the audience is made to feel like another traveler on a road trip with outdoor experts and their passengers. Coolfire Studios of St. Louis shot one video a day on and around Lake Tahoe.

Caring Hike” features Caring Hiking guide Carolyn Finney. She drives her African American hikers in her Toyota Rav4 to the Red Woods, while explaining the benefits of leaving the city and getting outdoors.

In “Glamping,” (“Glamour” camping) guide Tracey Friley takes three “Glampers” to a rainy tent oasis far away from the pressures of the city and shows them how to retain their style and comfort when camping.

“We’ve always been an innovative people,” Williams explains. “In ‘Glamping’ we invite our audience to rediscover that talent, apply it to nature and flip it our own way.”

In “Buffalo Soldiers Story,” Urban Outdoor Summit host Wayne Hubbard, a Buffalo Soldier historian and direct descendent, leads his passengers on a relaxing and educational journey, explaining the Soldiers’ influence on today’s Park Rangers.

The videos wrap with the tagline: “When you discover nature, you discover yourself.”

Toyota’s reaction to the concepts from inception-to-finish has been positive and supportive. “They loved the fresh insight and how the Rav4 fits naturally into the storylines,” says Williams.

Burrell Communications credits: CCO, Lewis Williams; GCD, Lisa McConnell; former CD Julie Attwell; EP John Seaton; ACD/AD Carl Koestner; copywriter, Sheldon Scott; Senior Digital Producer, Carlo Treviso; Business Managers, Linda Glover, Theresa Sabatino.

Post: Cutters, Chris Clayes, editor; NOLO Digital Film, Mike Matusek, colorist. Yessian Music provided the score.

LA-Based Colin Costello writes for Film, TV and advertising. Email him at