GSD&M drives new Land Rover ads

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Land Rover North America launches its first campaign from new agency GSD&M, Austin, Texas, using a theme revolving around courage.

The estimated $25 million push is aimed at achieving "a good, consistent approach" to advertising, said Jim Selwa, VP-marketing at Land Rover. Although used initially for the Discovery model, the plan is to extend the campaign to other Rover products later.

Two :30s breaking tonight show the courage of Discovery owners. The word appears beneath the brand's logo at the end of the spots and in national newspaper ads. Print ads, appearing in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, also show a welcome mat to make the brand friendlier and more approachable. Magazine ads break in August.

While pitching the account last year, GSD&M arrived at the courage theme after a research process the shop calls "value-based branding," said Roy Spence, agency president. Basically, a brand's values are united with the character of the target, he said. "We really believe this is a courageous brand. It has stayed true to itself." Land Rover owners have a "maverick mindset" of going their own way, which takes courage, Mr. Spence added.

The blitz is on par with last year's spending on Discovery, a sport-utility vehicle that received $25 million of the marketer's $35 million in media, as tracked by Competitive Media Reporting.


TV will air in the carmaker's top 18 markets for four weeks. After that, the push will continue four weeks on cable. All ads, including print, carry the Discovery's suggested retail starting price of $33,975. Even though Land Rover has put Discovery's price in ads since its 1994 launch, many people still have the misconception it costs $50,000, said Kim McCullough, model manager.

In the spot called "Bikini," a woman drives her Discovery to the beach, eyeing two gals in bikinis. When she exits her vehicle, viewers see she's pregnant. "Always be yourself," says the narrator. In the spot dubbed "Dog," a man stops his Discovery during a downpour to rescue a soggy mutt. "If you do one thing, you've done something," the voice-over states.

Mr. Spence said the narrator's comments refer to both the people who drive the vehicle and the Land Rover brand. GSD&M is also redesigning Land Rover's Web site ( to reflect the new courage positioning.

GSD&M won the account in March in a review. Incumbent Grace & Rothschild, New York, resigned after being told it would have to defend the business, citing "little or no profitability" from the account and "a drastically changed atmosphere" for creating ads after Land Rover's parent, Germany's BMW Group, took a more active role.

Ford Motor Co. said in March it planned to acquire Land Rover from BMW. The pending deal could close soon, Mr. Selwa said.


Land Rover sold a record 29,380 vehicles last year, but 2000 sales are flat through April -- 8,661 units, just 21 more than the same period a year ago, according to Automotive News.

Mr. Selwa projected sales of 31,000 units this year. But Land Rover hopes to dramatically increase sales after the arrival of Freelander in the fourth quarter of 2001. That SUV is expected to broaden the brand because it will be priced in the $25,000 to $26,000 range, he stated.

In keeping with the courage theme, Land Rover is sponsor of the new River Adventure ride arriving next May at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla. Custom-designed Defender models will carry 18 people through a simulated jungle and river.

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