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Deutsch Scores $200 Million Saturn Account

Date: Jan 30, 2007

Source: BusinessWeek

Author: David Kiley

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Deutsch Scores $200 Million Saturn Account

David Kiley

General Motors has awarded its $200 million Saturn account to Deutsch, LA. The loser in this move is Goodby Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which held the business since 2002.

Goodby is a top-flight agency, but never seemed to find its legs on the Saturn account. It used three ad taglines in in those five years. Campaigns seemed to careen from ads with dreamlike and ethereal qualities to downright boring ad noise. Saturn is a vital brand for GM as it is has demonnstrated a high degree of acceptability among buyers of Asian imports. It gets cross-shopped against Toyota, Honda and Hyundai more often than, say, Chevy or Pontiac cars.

But while Goodby is paying the price for the lack of clear brand direction, the Saturn client has to take a lot of blame as well. Saturn general manager Jill Lajdziak has bene in charge of the brand all that time, and going back before Goodby to when the work was produced by Publicis/Hal Riney. The latest change in ad direction, which resulted in the tagline, "Like Always. Like Never Before," which replaced "People First" was pretty much dictated by Saturn.

Saturn has a rich ad history. The ads that launched the brand for GM back in 1990 have been held up as worthy of study in business schools alongside great car advertising for Volkswagen. Jeff Goodby has been so frustrated on the account lately that a few months ago he met with the retired Hal Riney to talk about ways of getting the brand back some of its equity and glory through advertising. The agency about two months ago presented work for this coming year. Deutsch will ramp up on the work quickly.

Deutsch is being rewarded after two years of doing project work for GM. The agency started out pitching the Pontiac account two years ago. Not getting the assignment, Deutsch went on to get NASCAR advertising for GM, and Major League Baseball related work for Chevy. Last summer it was awarded the GM corporate ad account, and it launched GM's five-year, 100,000 mile warranty program with a series of TV ads showing flying cars. This Sunday, it has a GM ad in the Super Bowl. Deutsch has also been hatching a hybrid, alternative energy marketing plan--it named the Chevy Volt, GM's plug-in electric car introduced this month at the Detroit Auto Show--as well as a youth marketing strategy for GM. And now the Saturn account.

Deutsch gets the Saturn account at a critial time for the brand. While sales have been drifting downward in recent years, in large part because GM did not give the division competitive products for more than a decade, Saturn's lineup today is excellent.

The new Saturn Aura sedan bested the redesigned Toyota Camry for North American Car of the Year, a prestigious award voted on by auto journalists. The Saturn Sky is a hot roadster that is oversold. The new Saturn Outlook crossover SUV has been extremely well reviewed by press, including me, and can stand up wheel to wheel with Honda and Toyota vehicles in every category, from performance to interior design. The Saturn Vue SUV is an under-achiever in a crowding market. And the Saturn Ion compact, never well received by the public or the press, will be replaced this Fall with a much better small car, a version of GM's Opel Astra from Europe.

With a great advertising legacy sadly absent for a decade, and with terrific new product, now it will be Deutsch's turn to see if the agency can sell work to GM that will take the brand to the next level.

The problem for Saturn and Goodby was that with the product lineup already half-new, the division only managed a 6% increase in sales last year. Saturn can do better, and should do better. Now, it will be Deutsch's turn to see if the agency can sell work to GM that will take the brand to the next level.


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