GOODBY CREATES CAR ADS WITHOUT THE CAR

'We Put People First' Says Creative Director

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- When viewers see the latest spots from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, they might be forgiven if they aren't sure what is being advertised.

The spot shows people walking on roads with a simple piano score playing in the background. Only near the end do viewers realize the commercial is for a carmaker.

"When we design our cars we don't see sheet metal," the commercial's narrator explains. "We see the people who may one day be driving them." The spot ends with a shot of three models for General Motors Corp.'s Saturn Corp. and the brand's new tagline, "It's different in a Saturn."

First major work
The brand spot for Saturn is the first major work from Goodby, the San Francisco-based agency that's part of Omnicom Group, for the auto marketer. The campaign breaks Aug. 16 on national broadcast and cable TV networks.

Jamie Barrett, creative director at the agency, said, "The time we spent not showing the car is not gratuitous. It's reminding people we put people first. We just needed to find a powerful expression of that."

The brand spot, with a 60- and

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30-second version, will get heavy airplay for several weeks until Goodby's first product-specific TV spots break. A trio of new 30-second spots for the refreshened mid-size L-Series line arrive in September. L-Series print ads are already in September titles. Saturn's brand spot will then appear less frequently, but continue through the 2003 model year.

L-Series 'everyday experience'
The L-Series spots aim to "bring a little magic into everyday experiences" of driving, Mr. Barrett said. One shows a father and daughter dropping off a video; the other shows a couple inside their Saturn at a car wash.

All three commercials contain the on-screen line "Everyday. Meet Elegant."

Saturn sold variations of the same small car for a decade. Ads from incumbent Publicis Groupe's Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, portrayed Saturn as a caring car company with personalized customer service -- backing up those claims by annual owner surveys from consultancy J.D. Power and Associates. Over the years, Riney used actual owners and Saturn plant workers in ads, creating a face for the marketer.

Flubbed launch
But Saturn flubbed the 1999 launch of the L-Series, its second major product. Within a year of the launch, Saturn admitted it didn't have enough of the new models at showrooms when the campaign arrived. The L-Series competes against the popular Camry from Toyota Motor Sales USA and the Accord from American Honda Motor Co.

The launch campaign for Saturn's sport utility vehicle, the Vue, late last year wound up being Riney's swan song. Saturn called a review last November for this fall's launch of the Ion, the replacement for the long-standing S-Series small-car line. The marketer later expanded the review for the entire nearly $300 million account.

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