'Spare me daze', it's Willie - and he's teamed up with Toyota

By Paul Charman

Willie Apiata and the new Toyota Hilux.
Willie Apiata and the new Toyota Hilux.

With all due respect to the Toyota, these days several auto manufacturers produce utes just as rugged and reliable as the famous Hilux.

But deserved or not, over many years Toyota New Zealand's ad people have established the Hilux brand as epitomising all things blokish.

Fair enough, these ads have usually been a lot of fun to watch.

For example, from 1981 to 1995 Toyota delighted us with those "spare-me-daze" ads, featuring the late Barry Crump and actor Lloyd Scott.

Mildly entertaining 'Bugger' and 'Bulls' Hilux ads followed, then in 2012 the ad people found a new voice with the 'Tougher Than You Can Imagine' campaign.

This introduced that deadpan actor, the aspiring weatherman, with the bushy eyebrows; a wild boar carrying rocket launchers, an icecream-loving monkey and so forth.

The latest Hilux campaign, online only at this stage, will have a lot of us on the edge of our seats.

SAS legend and Victoria Cross recipient, Willie Apiata, is placed alongside Toyota ambassador Marc Ellis to sing praises of Hilux to a new generation.

The old serious guy/jokey guy formula seems to have been retained, though a wee bit forced compared to the spoof-laden zaniness of the Crumpie era.

In a fairly contrived online video Apiata designs his ultimate hunting ute, based on the double-cab SR5.

It's a product placement fest with Apiata adding "genuine Toyota parts", under-body protection plates, a winch, dazzling roof lights, mud tyres, a firing mount . . .

Willie Apiata VC fits the bill as one of New Zealand's most rugged individuals. Photo / Supplied

"Now the backcountry beckons, and he's taking his Hilux on a hunting adventure on the East Coast," says the ad.

"There's a seat going spare. If you've got what it takes to spend two days hunting in the bush with Willie, tell us why it should be you."

I'm looking forward to watching this series to see how it pans out, but with have a few reservations.

My fears, possibly unfounded, are to do with the potential over-exploitation of somebody who in 2008 succeeded Sir Edmund Hillary as the "most trusted New Zealander".

Toyota ads have usually been fun, the brand certainly seems to suit Apiata and he deserves a big pay day.

But just seeing Willie drive up and down a few hills and throw a couple of pigs on the tray would have done me.

It's unclear whether jokey Ellis is needed at all.

One of the country's most media savvy business people, these days Ellis looks jaded playing his "perpetually impish lad" character.

Anyway, two alpha males sharing the same cab would seem to be over-egging the pudding.

Because of risks implicit in hitching a star of Apiata's magnitude to the Toyota wagon, let's hope the ad people get it right.

Maybe detune the masculine perfection with some clever humour.

Perhaps introduce a really goofy competition winner (like Scottie of old), who will come along for the ride and lighten things up.

Or maybe get Willie to take the mickey out of his own legend, a bit like the Paul Hogan character, Crocodile Dundee, who only pretended to give himself a dry shave with that sheath knife.

These ad people know their trade, but even the best operators sometimes need a slash or two of the blue pencil through their finest work, perhaps with the words "less is more" added in caps.

Toyota are giving away a hunting trip with Willie - head to Toyota.co.nz to learn how to enter.

- NZ Herald

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