Toyota Vows to Keep Up With Three Jones (And One More) in Super Bowl Commercial

Toyota no doubt hopes Super Bowl viewers will be jones-ing for its new series of Tundra pick-up trucks after the Super Bowl is over.

A 60-second spot that aired just before the automaker’s sponsored halftime report on NBC featured three famous Jones actors — Tommy Lee, Leslie and Rashida — in a humorous scene. The trio puts individual vehicles through their paces and then gets a surprise visit from Nick Jonas,  who shares most of the consonants in the actors’ surname (Meanwhile, the entire ad takes place to the tune of “It’s Not Unusual,” by Tom Jones). Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi helped develop the spot.

“The four of us could do an action movie,” says Rashida Jones, in a recent interview. She was happy to be considered for the part. “It’s so rare that you get offered something that you’re kind of one of very few people that can actually do the job based on your last name.”

While the Super Bowl often conjures up images of beer ads from Anheuser-Busch InBev and commercials for soda and snacks from PepsiCo, Toyota has been one of the Big Game’s staunchest sponsors in the past two decades. The giant automaker has run ads most years after joining the Super Bowl ad roster in 2004. Since that time, it has stayed on the sidelines just three times: in 2010, 2011 and 2017.

Toyota could have gone for any Jones it wanted to: January, Norah, Catherine Zeta, Cherry or James Earl. But getting the Big Game mix right will be crucial. After all, General Motors is readying a big ad for its fleet of electric vehicles with the cast of “Austin Powers.” And Nissan has tapped actor Eugene Levy along with Catherine O’Hara, Brie Larson, Danai Gurria and Dave Bautista.

“We exhausted our list of every famous Jones,” says Lisa Materazzo, group vice president of marketing for Toyota Motor North America’s Toyota Division, in an interview. The final selection, she adds, “becomes an exercise in art and science to get what we believe is the perfect combination.” Seeing the three Jones in the ad, she says, “is interesting and it’s a bit unexpected,” which executives hope will make the endeavor stand apart from the rest of the night’s commercials.

While the three Jones seem very in the moment in the commercial, production restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic prevented all the principals from meeting in person. Rashida Jones spent time on set with Leslie Jones, for example, but not as much with Tommy Lee Jones.

And the requirements of the high-speed chase in the commercial gave her the chance to learn some new tricks. “There’s so much action. We had to kind of play each beat about where we were precisely in our chase,” Rashida Jones says. “That was totally new to me, when you have to dissect every single piece and reaction to each thing, specifically. You have to really concentrate on when you are passing someone and slinging mud into them. You’ve got to make sure you are passing them at the right speed to make it work.”

Toyota had more laughs from its four celebrities than it could handle. “As you can imagine with this group of talent together, there’s humor, and they had a really good time with the shoot, says Materazzo. Will extra scenes and bloopers show up online? “I don’t think so,” says the executive. “We say with all due respect to the stars, the big star in this is the Tundra.”

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