Global Saab ads give auto brand a unified image

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Swedish car marketer Saab AB is preparing its first global campaign, which it showed to dealers in Barcelona Jan. 22.

The ``Saab versus''-themed push is expected to break in Europe later this week and move into the U.S. in March or April.

Every country can cho0se from an inventory of the art, shot by several fashion and art photographers in locations around the world, and involve all the brand's communications, said Kerry Feuerman, global co-creative director and vice chairman of the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., which handles Saab Cars USA.

`NOT A TYPICAL CAR CAMPAIGN'

``We wanted to build this brand with a single, unified approach,'' said Mr. Feuerman, who worked closely in the past year with co-global creative Jari Ullakko, of Lowe Brindfors, Stockholm, and Mikael Eliasson, brand director at Saab AB. ``The campaign is designed to make you think. It's not a typical car campaign.''

The push tries to define the brand based upon its airplane heritage, car design and safety innovations, as well as performance.

The campaign is heavily print-oriented, with 25 spread and page ads already developed. Another 12 are in the works. All use a headline like ``Saab versus [something].''

For example, an ad headlined ``Saab versus the police'' touts the car's anti-theft transmission, which locks up once the key is removed from the ignition. ``Saab versus steroids'' discusses the brand's turbo-charged engines.

NEED TO READ AD COPY

All ads are ``based on the idea that the brand has challenged conventional thinking from the time it built its first car" in 1947, Mr. Feuerman said. ``You need to read the copy for these ads - you'll want to.''

Budget for the campaign wasn't revealed. Saab spent $34.8 million in the U.S. in measured media in the first half of 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting. The brand's ad spending outside the U.S. wasn't available by press time.

General Motors Corp. owns half of Saab, which will introduce a wagon version of its 9-5 sedan in the U.S. this spring. The wagon stars in the first global TV spot, themed ``Saab versus preconceptions.''

It aims to surprise viewers, Mr. Feuerman explained, because ``it tried to make you think one thing, then you realize, ah, it's the wagon.''

A POSITIVE MOVE

Saab's global initiative is a positive move for the brand, especially if it wants to build the power of Saab with the same cachet as other European brands, said auto consultant Susan Jacobs, president of Jacobs & Associates.

But, she added, Saab's main hurdle and strategic challenge is in its product lineup. Even though the brand is adding the wagon, the marketer is still sedan-focused.

That lineup ``probably limits their potential,'' she added, when most competitors are building exciting, youthful vehicles, such as roadsters and all-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicles.

Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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