VINCE BOND JR.

Toyota showcases UK car production on Twitter

Vince Bond Jr. is social media coordinator for Automotive News.Vince Bond Jr. is social media coordinator for Automotive News.
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The vehicle production process takes place every day within the "enclosed box" of auto plants, but most people rarely get to see it, said Scott Brownlee, head of social media at Toyota Great Britain.

So Toyota decided to crack the box open in front of the world Wednesday on Twitter.

Brownlee and his crew used their special "Factory to Forecourt" Twitter account to detail the birth of the Auris gasoline-electric hybrid from its beginnings as raw steel in Toyota's Burnaston, Derbyshire, plant to a finished product in showrooms.

For 14 hours, approximately 522 pre-written tweets bearing the #F2F hashtag -- some featuring onsite videos and photos -- were posted to document the 325 production processes that go into building the Auris. #F2F is short for "Factory to Forecourt."

The idea was to simulate the live production experience as if someone were at the plant tweeting on the spot.

Concise "Factory to Forecourt" tweets were sent out in rapid succession Wednesday, and Toyota's UK blog housed even more detailed descriptions on its vivid, interactive timeline. People could also tweet questions and interact with the Toyota team.

Last December, Brownlee said, they began working closely with the factory to ensure they had the process mapped out accurately and create the supporting YouTube video clips.

Last-minute preparations were still being made the day before the project went live, he said.

"It was all pre-written and the team copied and posted to a predetermined time schedule to match the process. We could not have done it live from the factory as we needed to have the material checked for accuracy and confidentiality, impossible in the 60-90 second gaps we were dealing with," Brownlee wrote in an e-mail Thursday. "So it was a simulation, but it faithfully represented the process we were describing."

Toyota's "Factory to Forecourt" Twitter account and the automaker's corresponding UK blog are the latest multimedia tour de force coming from the auto industry recently.

Toyota's Auris experiment is from the same bloodline as such outreach efforts as Ford's "Random Acts of Fusion" -- a cross-media storytelling campaign in which Ryan Seacrest led participants through an interactive tale that used social media, radio and TV -- and the Chevy Sonic's "Let's Do This" stunt-crazed digital marketing blitz.

Automakers, trying to leapfrog the creativity of their rivals, are doing their best to leverage the Internet to reach an audience spending increasingly more time on the Web — or, as Lincoln marketing boss Matt VanDyke once said, adjusting to the "absolute reality of the times."

Brownlee said he drew inspiration for the Auris idea several years ago after spending a day in the plant with a BBC film crew. Twitter was still new at the time, but he said there was a buzz about the platform's instant-sharing capabilities even then.

"We could have done more outreach to build awareness – couldn't you always? -- but we felt it went well," Brownlee added. "The important thing is the legacy of the material now on the various platforms."

Toyota has officially upped the multimedia ante for its competitors, and the ball is now in their court.

Who will throw down the next slam dunk?

You can reach Vince Bond Jr. at vbond@crain.com. -- Follow Vince on Twitter

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