SATURN AD CAMPAIGN

When is public confession taken to far? Here’s my answer. Saturn has a lot of new advertisements – TV, print media, internet. The vast majority of these ads showcase Saturn as something that wasn’t cool, but is becoming cool.

“Like Always. Like Never Before.”

That’s the main tag line. And it works, to an extent. But why must they nauseate me as I watch Aura’s and Sky’s cross my screen followed by diverse groups of people all saying, “That’s a Saturn?”
I feel bad that Saturn believes they must bring this self-inflicted negative attention to their dull and boring past. Capable cars lacking in personality are now being replaced by good-looking vehicles with some performance.

It’s a fine line that a company must walk. I was emailed numerous videos, from Ford, relative to the how and why of their Bold Moves campaign. I’m not sure Ford’s automotive lineup is as competitive as it once was (whereas Saturn’s is more competitive than it ever was), however, while Mark Fields; Alan Mulally; Bill Ford; J Mays and others confessed to doing poorly in the recent past, they did not try to sell their products on being ‘better than before’. In fact, they weren’t really trying to sell their products at all. They were showing media, shareholders, and Wall Street movers and shakers that they understood the problem and wanted to revitalize their image.

Saturn, on the other hand, is seemingly attemtping to sell their cars on a 25/75 principle. 25% of the reasoning behind buying a Saturn should be their lovy-doviness and differentiation. “Like Always.” The other three-quarters of your rationale should be the fact that Saturn is nothing like they were. “Like Never Before.”

So two airbags pop open, and you are to think, “Like Always.” And the commercial tells you to think so. Then a roadster – the Sky – drives by, and you are to think, “Like Never Before.” Likewise with the Aura, and likely with the Astra and new Vue. Translated, “We never made cool cars before.”

So therein lies the second question. How long does it take for a company to “recapture the world’s imagination?” as Saturn asks in one ad. How long does it take to become cool? Well, you captured North America’s logical, rational, objective left brain more than a decade ago. But I’m not sure you captured North America’s subjective, artistic right brain. Ever. And certainly not the imagination of the rest of the world, where you never sold cars.

So if you never captured our imagination, how can you re-capture? And why do you, oh Saturn, want to tell us that you even need to recapture it, thereby indicating that you lost hold on it? Can you, oh Saturn, by admitting to your faults; by showing us that other people (actors in commercials) are surprised to see how good your cars look; and by telling us your cars are different now, really expect to become cool? No, cool happens over time. Ask BMW. And when you, oh Saturn, tell us that you were not cool in the very recent past, we will safely assume that you still aren’t.

Let your products sell themselves. If they are good enough for me to buy, let me make the decision on how good-looking they are. Rather than have actors tell me how much better looking they are than previous Saturns. Unless you want to totally change your image, don’t give me conflicted messages about being same old Saturn and then new-guard GM. Just let the cars do the talking.

Because they’re not bad. Not bad at all.