Posted by: David Kiley on November 23, 2005
Without much fanfare and press hoopla, Jaguar Cars has launched an entirely new brand positioning with a new ad agency in the hopes of putting this somewhat troubled classic automotive brand on a better track.
Ads themed “Gorgeous,” by new ad agency Euro RSCG, which also handles Volvo advertising, have been running about a month. More fashion ads than anything I’ve seen in the auto category before, then company is trying to restore Jaguar to being the fashion icon it once was.
One print ad shows a fashionisto standing next to an XK, her hair swept to one side in a sexy manner. The accompanying headline is “Gorgeous Gets in Everywhere.” The ad is right at home in a copy of Vogue or Vanity Fair. Ads also feature copy lines like, “Where Did Gorgeous Go?” and “Gorgeous Trumps Everything.” The voiceover for the ads is done by actor Willem Dafoe, who I consider to be a kind of underground icon, if there is such a thing, of the fashion and indie film set.
Mike O’Driscoll, a Brit, who runs Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin brands for Ford, has a difficult challenge with Jaguar. The new XJ and XK are very good cars, and of a build quality Jaguar owners haven’t seen before. The S-Type is not my favorite set of wheels. And the entry-level X-Type has never been lauded by the auto press. A front-drive engineered car built off the Ford Mondeo, the X-Type has never been accepted by the auto media as a legit Jag. And so, that’s why the X-Type won’t be featured in any national advertising.
The TV ads in the new campaign aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the right strategy. In one ad, I see pretty people who look like they are all related to Ralph Lauren riding horses, enjoying a Martha-Stewartesque dinner party and the like. Dafoe’s voiceover says, “Gorgeous wants for nothing,” and “Everyone wants gorgeous.” Another spot has Dafoe proclaiming, “Performance is not an option,” “Luxury is not an option,” and “Gorgeous is not an option.” The line of copy on the screen at the end is “We need more Gorgeous.” The messaging here is a little cloying to my ear. But I also know a lot of people in Jaguar’s target audience who won’t think so.
The theme of the campaign was hatched by Alicia Johnson, worldwide creative director on Jaguar. Not surprisingly, her advertising experience is in fashion, not cars. Among other touches, she hired photographer Michel Compt to shoot the ads. Compt is a first-class fashion photographer who has also shot Formula One racing. “Every time we wonder what we should do next, we come back to the idea of Gorgeous, and that’s why people want a Jaguar,” she says. She’s right. Then only real reason to consider a Jag over a Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes or BMW, etc. is because of how a person feels about the brand. “Am I a Jaguar person?” The problem up to know is that for years people had little to nothing to go on when considering that question. Years ago, Jag stood for leather chairs in wood-paneled English libraries, snifters of Cognac or Pimms cups and hunting scenes on the wall. It was as English as bad teeth, Yorkshire pudding, lamb kidneys and a barrister’s social club. But that positioning isn’t going to fly today. O’Driscoll says the campaign is meant to evoke feelings of “elegant modernity.” That’s a pretty heady positioning. What is clear is that in order for Jaguar to get back on a decent sales track and stop losing money for Ford, it has to create a mystique around it.
Perhaps this is a start.