Saturn Asks Consumers To 'Rethink American' In New Campaign

by , May 21, 2007, 5:00 AM
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Saturn is asking America to rethink American. That's the theme of Saturn's new brand campaign and the first omnibus campaign for the GM division for Deutsch, Los Angeles, which won the account in January from Goodby, Silverstein and Partners.

The new brand statement--which hit airwaves in a network and cable roadblock last week with the tagline "Rethink American"--will begin product-focused advertising this week, in magazines, outdoor, online, and in promotional activity, all aimed at getting Americans to rethink the status quo by putting Saturn vehicles like Aura, Sky and Vue on their shopping lists versus Toyota, and Honda cars and crossovers.

The campaign creative uses contrasting ideas to suggest that Saturn is on the right side of social concerns: stereotypical images evoked by words like "strength," "bling," "status" and "beauty"--a pair of posing bodybuilders, a fist festooned with chunky diamond rings, a nameplate for a turbocharged V12 engine and a pair of pouting fashionistas, respectively--versus counterintuitive variations: Lance Armstrong, arms raised in triumph; a hand wearing a wedding band, a nameplate for the Hybrid version of the Vue crossover, and a mother nursing her child.

TV ran on "I Met Your Mother," "King of Queens," the "CSI" franchises, and a roadblock on MSN.com, with more planned for Yahoo.com and AOL.com. Later this summer, there will be more product-specific messages for cars like Aura and the launch of the 2008 Vue late this summer.

Print ads with the theme line "Something to rethink about" either call out the imports or use social critique to tout vehicle features. One says "Don't buy it because it's American. Buy it because it's amazing. Buy it because it turns heads. Buy it because it gets all the little things right ... buy it because 49 independent journalists voted, and it's the North American Car of the Year. Over both Honda and Toyota."

Another for Vue argues that "The rich don't deserve to be safer. So when did safety become a luxury?" And another one for Vue says: "Big Dummy. Two words so often used in unison. But why? Is it because we think that 'big' and 'smart' can't co-exist?"

Saturn has been called GM's conquest brand, and it's a good-news division at GM. Sales are up over 20% this year as the division rolls out a series of new vehicles, including a replacement for Ion, called Astra, a derivative--like Saturn's Sky roadster--of an Opel-made vehicle for the Euro market.

Eric Hirshberg, chief creative officer at Deutsch, says the effort aligns with Saturn's strategic position within GM's line as a conquest brand for those who want to buy an import.

He says the ads also seize upon a "cultural momentum, where there is an openness and desire for progressive ideas," he says. But he adds that the ads are deliberately progressive without being divisive. "I would submit that there is very little in the advertising that is divisive and controversial. While it feels like social commentary, there's really a lot of things we can agree on--some are progressive, some are very traditional," he says. "Saturn has always been a progressive company, and one that is also very down to earth."

Hirshberg adds that the advertising is also slightly more aggressive than previous efforts. The company's most recent tag-line--"Like always, like never before," which replaced "Different kind of company, different kind of car," in 2002, when Goodby won the account--was launched with a spot showing people going through the motions of driving on streets and highways, without actually being in cars.

"Saturn has sort of come be to be known as the nice brand; but it has been so much more than that: They came into the market and blew up the status quo and questioned everything and reinvented the car industry in some sense. We wanted to get back to the idea of Saturn as a car company that rejects the status quo."

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