New Olds effort evolves tagline

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General Motors Corp.'s Oldsmobile Division will launch TV ads for the 2001 Aurora sedan regionally April 1 in 15 markets. GM followed a similar strategy when breaking Chevrolet Suburban ads first in Texas in December.

National TV advertising for the sedan will break in the second quarter, although national print ads will arrive in March books, said Mike Sands, advertising director at Oldsmobile.

"Aurora is our flagship, and we will support it with a major push," he said, declining to be more specific. The sedan has its first major redo since its debut in 1994. Aurora marked the start of the brand's product rejuvenation and quest for young, import buyers.

Mr. Sands said it's too early to discuss creative work from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. He said a full-line divisional brand commercial from Burnett that broke Feb. 10 will run nationally into March "to remind people we have five vehicles as a portfolio."

Oldsmobile spent $236 million in measured media during the first nine months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Aurora got a mere $10.9 million.

Ad spending on the new Aurora is expected to increase to an estimated $30 million this year.

Karen Francis, general manager of Oldsmobile, said all new ads will have subtle changes to the tag "Start something." Each vehicle in the lineup will get a different word after "start" to help describe its positioning.

The tags for the Alero coupe will soon evolve to "Start connecting" to reflect the 16 features, such as all-speed traction control, that connect drivers to the road.


The Aurora tag is "Start obsessing" to focus on the car's improved performance and new styling. "We're going to give customers more than they expect," Ms. Francis said of the redone sedan. The new model, with either a six- or an eight-cylinder engine, offers more horsepower than its predecessor.

Oldsmobile's tag strategy is similar to that of Toyota Motor Sales USA, which evolved its "Toyota. Everyday" tag last year.

The GM brand improved sales last year to 352,197 units from 329,742 in 1998, according to Automotive News. Oldsmobile sales slipped in January to 22,902 vehicles from 26,209 units in January 1999.

The new Aurora is targeted at prior owners of the sedan and owners of the brand's Eighty Eight, which disappeared in the 1999 model year. Olds expects sales of the new Aurora to reach 50,000 by 2001 vs. 16,321 last year.

Those sales goals may be too ambitious, said Susan Jacobs, president of auto consultancy Jacobs & Associates.

"I don't think Oldsmobile is out of the woods yet in terms of having a strong future," she said.

On a positive note, she said Oldsmobile is "probably doing as well if not better" than GM's Cadillac and Buick divisions in repositioning its image.

Oldsmobile has increased its use of promotions and sweepstakes to generate leads and showroom traffic. Burnett created a current print ad offering a $50 gift certificate from for test driving an Alero by April 29.

Mr. Sands said once prospects test drive an Oldsmobile, dealers are able to sell more than half those people a vehicle.

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