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Saturn Found Its Voice In A Hurry on Oscar Night

Posted by: David Kiley on February 26, 2007


I have been complaining for months, if not years, that General Motors’ Saturn brand was groping for a clear voice in its advertising. Last month, the GM division fired an excellent agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and hired another excellent agency, Deutsch/LA in the hopes of ending the grope.

What a difference a month makes. Deutsch’s first work for Saturn debuted on last night’s Academy Award telecast. A simple and wonderfully executed idea, the ad spotlighted the fact that the Aura sedan won the prestigious North American Car of the Year award, beating out the new Toyota Camry no less. The ad shows Aura customers who bought the car before the award was announced opening up a box with the award inside. Huh? Saturn, it seems, is sending the award around to a number of customers with the idea that after a period of time, they will send it on, with Saturn paying the postage, so another customer can house it for a brief time.

The idea fosters the sense of community Saturn’s loyal customers have felt over the years. It also reminds me of the way championship NHL teams allow each member of the team to have a turn keeping the Stanley Cup in their homes during the course of the year.

The ad and the idea is successful because it returns Saturn to the tonality it enjoyed during its launch some 16 years ago—-a car, and a brand for and about real people, and community. Another reason I like it is that it gives Saturn a hook on which to hang a very important, in the auto industry, award. It gives the award some context and a reason for Saturn owners or would-be owners a reason to check out what the award is about.

Saturn marketers have been conflicted about its wholesome, almost folksy past and the modern Euro-design direction it is now taking. Though it’s just one spot, I thought Deutsch’s Oscar ad nailed it.

Reader Comments


February 27, 2007 10:20 AM

Wow, that IS cool. What a great idea. I've finally seen one in person, and what a great car. It looks more like a Lexus than anything at first glance. They really nailed it.

Joel A

February 27, 2007 8:05 PM

that's actually smart advertising. the new saturn vehicles, in and of themselves, are fine, easily on par with the segment leaders toyota and honda. yet the main appeal of the brand has ALWAYS been its dealership experience (which I personally experienced) which has spread to a loyalty no automaker, not even honda, has been able to achieve (and this was with crappy products!)

hope for GM's sake that the rest of america will agree with them with this new advertising gimmick.


February 27, 2007 8:23 PM

Congrats GM/Saturn for becoming refocussed. The Aura is an excellent car and it stacked up well against the Camry in a Car& Driver test. I am quite sure your Astra hatchback will be a runaway hit as the hatch market in the US is quite dull now after being vacated by Honda and other imports. Imagine what the aftermarket tuners will do with this car once it reaches stateside. Please bring in the GTi version and dont detune the car.

Sam English

February 27, 2007 11:30 PM

Always have liked the idea of Saturn, but they never had a car I could see myself in. Today with the aura and outlook I will likely be a believer soon!

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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