May 20, 2010, 18:30

Check out this absolutely hilarious ad for the Toyota Sienna SE Minivan:

This is just one in a series of spots created by Saatchi and Saatchi, Toyota’s ad agency featuring a suburban family of four that have dubbed themselves “the best parents ever.” Throughout the campaign, actors Brian Huskey and Rachel Drummond give a deadpan delivery that is cluelessly endearing. But this rap video spoof, which borrows elements from Jay Z’s “Onto The Next One” video, takes the cake.

Says creative director Erich Funke (add South African accent) , “For this spot, we went with a music video just because it seemed to be a natural fit to what we were introducing to the public. The Sienna SE has lower profile wheels, black interior and definitely more swagger than any other ride. We did wonder if we’d get knocked for going into the urban music space, but it felt like the natural thing to do. So [lead writer] Donnell Johnson wrote a brief with several catchy lyric ideas that we submitted that to various music companies.”

Enter Virginia-based music house Black Iris (with offices in NY and LA).

“We were brought into the project because Saatchi had seen some of the other comedic work we had done.” says executive producer Jonathan Fuller (no South African accent). “One of our writers was a participant in the music video ‘Dick-in-a-Box’ [One of SnL’s most famous skits – 21 million YouTube views to date]. Another one of our guys scored the new movie MacGruber. We’re known for our comedy.”

“They wanted a legit hip hop track so we gave them a bunch of different options for both music tracks and lyrics”, Fuller continued. “For the most part we mixed in Pro Tools using samples from Reason. We submitted different sub-genres of hip hop ranging from a dirty Atlanta style to a real spare sound like the Neptunes. Ultimately we wound up with a sub-genre we’d define as poppy, with a rapped verse then a very hooky chorus.”

Back and forth dialog then ensued between agency and music house. “Creatively, it was a two-way street so it was really great.” says Fuller. “We had a bunch of conference calls where we were cracking each other up. Donnell came up with the ‘Where my kids at?’ part at the beginning. We helped turn the ‘swagger wagon’ phrase into what became a really strong chorus.”

Interestingly, the vocals were not performed by the actors nor professional studio singers. They were done by the composer and his girlfriend (Black Iris prefers to brand themselves as a ‘music collective’ and generally do not give out their individual artists’ names).

Says Fuller, “It was a bit of a dance not to make fun of the genre, but they were convincing enough to make this work.”

When asked about the challenges involved with producing a spot that depends on having a finished track before the shoot, Funke says, “ We didn’t feel stretched for time. We worked with Black Iris until we had a piece we could actually play on the shoot . It was pod A and pod B happening at the same time. Kudos to the [Saatchi & Saatchi] producers [David J Evans V, Karena Dacker, Gil DeCuir].”


Mike Bielenberg is a professional musician and co-founder of, a production music marketplace where media producers and business owners can license high-quality, affordable music from a online community of musicians.

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