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New Saturn Ad Line Pushes "American" Button


Saturn this week launches its first big campaign under new ad agency Deutsch/LA under the tagline “Rethink American.”

It’s the fourth tagline/slogan creative strategy in five years. The last two slogans, “Like Always. Like Never Before,” and “People First,” were written by Goodby, Silverstein + Partners, which was dismissed by Saturn last January.

The new line grew out of research that consumers still view Saturn as something special. That, combined with a raft of new and excellent Saturn vehicles, inspired the new line.

I can’t help thinking, though, that the line lacks dynamism, passion and punch. It reminds me a bit of the Chevy ad platform of American Revolution. Ironically, Saturn’s Euro-inspired designs are meant to set Saturn apart from GM’s American iconic brands like Chevy, Cadillac, Buick, Hummer and Pontiac.

The Saturn Aura, for example, the 2006 North American Car of the Year, was designed and engineered in Europe, and the Saturn Astra small car arriving this Fall is a rebadged Opel Astra from Europe.

The gamble here, if an ad slogan can be called a gamble, is that Saturn’s excellent re-tooled product line, which also includes the new Outlook crossover SUV and Sky convertible, can carry the “American” idea to GM as a kind of halo brand idea.

If there is hope here, it’s that Deutsch is a solid creative ad agency. The effort Deutsch came up with for the Academy Awards, an ad showing Saturn owners taking turns housing the Aura’s North American car of the Year award, was well thought of andn excellent ad execution that hit just the right notes for Saturn.

I loathed the last tagline, “Like Always…” I thought it a unimaginative bore. I liked “People First,” penned by Goodby, though, because I thought it had legs, encapsuled an idea that was true to Saturn. “Rethink American” has the same problem for me as “Like Always.” It sounds like advertising line and campaign, though I can think of some ideas about brand content that might make it a bigger idea.

Saturn has for most of its 20-year plus life been the GM brand that attracted the highest percentage of consumers from Asian brands. That’s why it’s so important to GM. It can’t get by just poaching customers from Ford and Chrysler.


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