Aiming to promote the newest Camry, Toyota will return to Super Bowl Sunday advertising this weekend for the first time in three years, and the automaker has turned to its workers in Georgetown to help.
Among Toyota's advertisements during Super Bowl coverage will be one that features the Scott County plant and eight of its workers, and showcases Kentucky's role in building the vehicle that has been the best-selling car in America for 10 years straight and 14 of the past 15 years. The Camry has been assembled in Georgetown since the plant opened in 1988.
The 60-second commercial opens with scenes of the Bluegrass countryside shrouded in a cold, early morning fog. Against a quiet soundtrack of piano and strings and scenes of the plant coming to life for the day comes a voiceover by 15-year Toyota veteran Sean Cooley.
"I'm gonna guess probably close to a million Camrys out there that have had my hands on 'em," he says while driving his own Camry. "One of the first things I ask myself is, would I want this in my car. And I do ask myself that a lot."
Along with scenes of life in Central Kentucky, the feel-good ad shows workers at various stages of the production process and touts Toyota's dedication to quality, a perception that took a major hit in recent years with a spate of recalls. It is available to view now at Camryeffect.com (click on "Films" under "Explore the effect").
The ad will air between 3 and 3:30 p.m. Sunday, during the pregame show on NBC. Discussion is under way on how to market the advertisement after that.
Toyota couldn't have picked a better representation for vehicle quality than Cooley's 1997 Camry, which has more than 400,000 miles on it.
"Right now, it's 416,312," he said in an interview Wednesday as he finished his drive to the plant.
The second-shifter has driven the car to the plant every day from his home in Shelbyville since he bought it new two weeks after taking the job in Georgetown.
"The reason it has so many miles is it hasn't given me any trouble," he said. "It has been very cheap to run. I didn't put an alternator on it until 300,000 miles and starter until it was at 350,000 miles.
"It's only had very minimal things that I've had to do to it. A lot of it is keeping up on the maintenance, keeping the oil changed and transmission fluid changed."
Cooley's Camry takes a starring role in one of two other film vignettes also available to watch at Camryeffect.com. In it, Cooley discusses the car's popularity among his colleagues, as well as the closest his car ever came to being decommissioned. On a ride home one night, he struck a fallen rock on the interstate.
"Called the tow truck, put some new wheels on it and the very next day, I drove it right back to work," he says in the film.
He put 250 more miles on the car doing the filming, which took 21 hours and was done the week after Thanksgiving.
"It was very exciting," he said. "It was a blast."
He and employees of Toyota's ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi L.A., drove around Franklin and Shelby counties "just looking for places that had character," Cooley told the Herald-Leader.
"It's been a privilege and honor to help represent not only Toyota but Kentucky and what we're trying to do here in Kentucky," he said. "I hope people when they get finished watching it will understand there are people here in the United States who put a lot of time, care, effort, dedication and ownership into the cars we build.
"If they want a car that they know has been made with the utmost care and utmost integrity, that's what we're doing here in Kentucky."
The commercial had been edited and completed when the decision came back from the advertising team that Cooley's commanding voice should handle the voiceover, which originally was to be done by an actor.
"It didn't really strike me as what a big deal this was until I saw the commercial the first time and thought, 'Man, this is really an honor to be chosen to do this,'" he said.
Among the other employees featured in the ad is Lynette Campbell, who works in the factory's paint department. Campbell's daughter is visible in the back seat of her car as her mother prepared to drop her off at the company's on-site day care.
"I couldn't believe it when I heard it was for the Super Bowl," Campbell said.
Other employees featured are Bruce Bryan (plastics), Mark Conley (assembly), Raphael Garcia (stamping), Susan Henson (quality control), Richard Kirtley (powertrain) and Tony Threets (stamping).
The second vignette on Camryeffect.com features another Georgetown worker, Tim Conder, and his daughter Allison.
The advertisements have the plant abuzz, said spokesman Rick Hesterberg.
"We're all excited about it," he said. "It's no doubt the highest visibility our plant has received in an advertisement or commercial nationally."
But the excitement isn't spilling over into raucous Super Bowl ad-watching parties. Cooley and Campbell said they plan to just watch with their families.
"I'm trying to be kind of quiet about it," Cooley said. "It's just going to be me, my wife and kids and maybe my mom."