The Art of Co-Creation:

Why Multidisciplinary Commercial Work is Embedded in DOMO’s DNA

First Appeared in LBB on May 30, 2023

LBB finds out how the LA-based production company delivered multilayered content for Toyota’s latest campaign


In late 2022 DOMO were presented with the details of an epic partnership between three agencies. The objective? 16 individual spots advertising six Toyota vehicles to three individual US markets.

Distilling the cultural nuances of a brief and convincingly conveying the core attributes on screen is no easy feat. It requires acute sensitivity, tonal training and an authentic understanding of the diverse identity groups within each market. Luckily, two of DOMO’s directors - André Stringer and Julian King - were ready and willing to embrace Toyota’s ‘Let’s Go’ motif, welcoming the project into their creative orbit with open arms and open minds. 

All three agencies - Saatchi & Saatchi, Conill and Burrell - placed an emphasis on the importance of establishing authentic connection and a sense of community through this campaign. So, André and Julian began the Co-Creation™ process, weaving this common thread throughout all the films by employing non prescriptive casting, relatable imagery and other motifs which would effectively resonate with consumers. 

Here, LBB’s April Summers speaks to the DOMO directors and agencies about how they aligned on the creative briefs and crafted three distinctly customized but ubiquitously corresponsive commercials. 

LBB> This is a unique project with lots of moving parts and cultural nuances – can you tell us a bit about the initial strategy and your approach to the requirements of this multifaceted campaign?

Julian> There's definitely a large-scale idea within the Toyota brand of utility for everyone. This sense of finding universal appeal in the filmmaking and effectively expressing that connection between the car and the character, was key to communicating Toyota’s vision.

André> Absolutely! And, inspiration is everything. Talking to each agency team - who were all fantastic - we really got inspired by the scope and power of the ideas. Each film uniquely communicated the big, motivating principle of the ‘Let’s Go’ strategy. That challenged us to similarly hold the whole campaign in mind whilst developing a ton of bespoke details for each of the numerous films. You need to be able to fluidly tap into the unique backstory that each idea is developed from. You can’t hold a simple, monolithic approach — you have to hold a whole series of different framings that all sit embedded within a larger context.

LBB> Why did DOMO feel like the right company to entrust with this campaign? 

Brandon Kusher, senior producer at Saatchi & Saatchi> We were drawn to André initially because of his body of work. After reviewing his treatment and speaking with him on a couple of calls we felt he was the right director for this campaign. Although we had not worked with DOMO before we knew they were a very collaborative company and would do everything possible to elevate this campaign. We were also familiar with Rani Melendez, DOMO’s managing partner, from his previous role leading a top shelf VFX company, and we were confident that he would support this production.

Carlo Traviso, senior producer> We chose DOMO for this campaign as they presented an outstanding director treatment in André Stringer. The team’s approach to the project was collaborative and efficient. They demonstrated excellent organisational skills at each step of the way. During pre-production, DOMO especially excelled at Google doc collaboration, which made tracking creative updates such as locations, art department, and talent feel seamless and allowed our teams to work together more effectively. This strong foundation led to a smooth shoot and resulted in high-quality footage that exceeded our expectations. We had not worked with André or any other director from DOMO before. However, given the success of this campaign, we would certainly consider future collaborations with DOMO and their directors.

LBB> As directors, how did you collaborate to ensure you were aligned on the Toyota branding, while still establishing a clear distinction between each demographic? 

André > The concept of collaboration has almost been trivialised by how much it’s used out there to describe the process of working together. We use the word “co-create” to describe the version of collaboration that we strive for. It’s about active participation, innovation, and growth within a collective creative process. All of our directors are constantly discussing ideas and inspiring each other. It definitely didn’t hurt that Julian and I have also worked on a lot of different projects - both narrative and commercial - together.  

Julian> This kind of collaboration allows for nuance, and when you start on something new, you are always balancing the power of the fundamental elements of the brand against the novel ideas that we can develop for each film. André and I took a methodical approach to this, really diving into what makes a Toyota film sing. Then we started laying out the things we wanted to elevate — how we wanted to advance the campaign with some big images and little detailed techniques. We checked in with each other a lot even though we were managing our own separate jobs. We really viewed them as parts of a whole.

LBB> André, you worked with Saatchi & Saatchi on the general North American demographic and Burrell for the African-American demographic. Did you view each treatment as a separate creative exercise or approach the task at hand with one overarching idea? 

André> Being able to hold multiple vantage points that are iterations of a thesis statement is integral to this kind of work. This kind of collaboration - a shared set of brand values, strategy, and thesis - is something I try to hold as a unified idea even when I’m tailoring my work to each agency’s needs. I’m there to hone their voice within the bigger brand approach.

LBB> Julian, you collaborated with Conill for the Hispanic market – how did you approach creating the treatment for this spot? 

Julian> Listening to Mauricio Torres, creative director at Conill, talk about community and the sense of familial connection that he envisioned being expressed in all the films in this campaign was really inspiring. I took that as a central emotional concept that we wanted to weave throughout the film, and tried to bring it through all the little technical motifs, all the ideas and all the beats of the films in the treatment. I always see treatments as a continuation of that first call, that initial dialogue. The next piece of the conversation that gets us that much closer to the shoot, the edit. 

LBB> Have either of you worked with Toyota before? If so, how did you channel this previous experience and apply your understanding of the Toyota brand identity to this work? 

André> I have. But it’s also such a mainstream brand that you’re participating in it, as a viewer, all the time. If you are sensitive to that fact then when you step up to the plate to start on a new campaign with those learnings under your belt, you can take more chances and find new territory that works for the brand. The films that we created with Saatchi and the films we did with Burrell are different because each agency had their own take. Magnifying each of those takes without breaking the brand voice is what you owe when they come to you to help solve multiple problems at once. 

Julian> I've also done some work for Toyota that was a little bit more about the legacy of the brand; telling the story of their proving ground, their 25 year history, their first ever hydrogen truck. But this campaign was more about the adventurous experience of driving – I loved that. Let’s put the audience inside the experience and let them get a taste of the excitement that comes with getting outside your comfort zone.

LBB> Did you learn any new skills or hone existing skills in any new ways during the creative process? 

Julian> I was able to play with FPV drones with cars for the first time. Bringing real people into a large-scale campaign was something I’ve done before, but not for an automotive brand and it was freeing for Toyota to be open to that. Finding those relatable characters to believe on screen and connect with was exciting. 

LBB> What were the biggest challenges or technical difficulties you faced during this project? How did you overcome them?

André> Shooting in LA during its wettest and coldest winter ever meant we were rewriting a lot of our approach because the places we had planned to shoot at now had six feet of snow on top of them. We had to adapt, and in the process we found better places. Both the agencies and client were really responsive and helpful, shifting things around to make the shoot possible. Shooting two films a day is ambitious and this project required a lot of pre-planning, alignment building, and a precision-oriented approach.

Julian> It was definitely a strange time – I think it was the first proper snowfall in Los Angeles County, at a certain altitude, in 50 years or something. And the process of making multiple 15” spots in a condensed schedule requires a lot of precision and teamwork. But we had a really excellent group of collaborators and everyone understood the time crunch we were on. I remember turning to Mauricio during lunch on day one, saying, “we just shot a whole spot in half a day!” – that was a brand new experience for me and it felt exciting. 

LBB> How do you measure the effectiveness of a multifaceted campaign like this one?  

Melissa Green, client partner at Saatchi & Saatchi> The goal of this campaign is to drive consideration of the specific Toyota model featured in the ad. Through surveys, we take a look at those who were exposed to the ad vs those who weren’t, to see if there is a lift in consideration.

LBB> What do you consider to be the most successful aspect of this campaign? 

André> Doing work isn't just about what you do, it's also about how you do it. Success, for me, is defined by the tenor at which collaboration happens, it takes an army to make work at this scale. I think of things in musical terms, so I like to measure success on if we’re able to really bring all the voices together to create a shared harmony. If we can find harmony in a global campaign, with multiple agencies and multiple directors, then that’s our definition of success.

Callie Parish, account supervisor at Conill> Collaboration is key to any project but was particularly important on this campaign due to the sheer volume of assets required to support multiple vehicles. All agencies, production partners, and clients were in lock step on logistics and creative vision. Ultimately, these strong relationships fostered trust that enabled us to produce the best work possible that will speak to the Hispanic audience.

Jake Mikosh, creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi> Digital media is only getting more complicated, requiring not just attention to detail on a granular level, but also collaboration on a massive scale. You can see the positive results of both in the work.

LBB> What has the feedback from the client been? 

Melissa Green, client partner at Saatchi & Saatchi> Toyota is really happy with all of the work. The MCC creative garnered an overwhelmingly positive response, which prompted Toyota to request a sizzle piece so they could showcase the work across various departments. We have also received requests from TDA's expressing their desire to leverage some of the remarkable MCC work.