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DETROIT - Saturn advertising is going back to the brand's roots in a fresh, contemporary way that expresses Saturn's dedication to customers. Carrying the new theme line, "People First," the campaign breaks on television March 8 with brand-focused commercials.

"'People First' expresses a philosophy that has guided Saturn from the start in the way we design, build and sell vehicles," said Jill Lajdziak, vice president, Saturn sales, service and marketing. "It reminds everyone of who we are and what we stand for - the 'People First' theme is clear and straightforward, just like Saturn. As our product line expands dramatically, it's important to communicate that our philosophy has not changed."

One of the campaign's initial 30-second commercials, "Philosophy," shows several sets of twins inside of a Saturn retailer. While one twin plays the part of a customer, the other portrays a Saturn representative taking the customer through the process of demonstrating, buying, taking delivery and servicing a car. "When you put people first, you treat them the way you'd want to be treated yourself. No hassle, no haggle - it's a philosophy we've embraced from the start," says the voiceover.

Another commercial, "Convoy," emphasizes the safety and security benefits of OnStar, available on many Saturn models. In the spot, a woman and her young daughter leave home in a Saturn VUE sport utility on a shopping trip. As the VUE pulls out of the driveway, it is followed by a police car, fire truck, rescue vehicle and tow truck, whose drivers even follow the woman and daughter through a supermarket checkout line. The voiceover says: "When you put people first, you make sure help is never far away. Saturn is now available with OnStar."

"OnStar is a feature that customers usually associate with a much more expensive vehicle than a Saturn," said Scott McLaren, Saturn advertising manager. "It reinforces the idea that Saturn provides experiences and choices that go beyond customers' normal expectations."

A third brand commercial, breaking in April, highlights the Saturn-exclusive vehicle exchange program. In the spot, a young couple looks admiringly at their new Saturn ION coupe but is interrupted by the arrival of a baby-delivering stork. The couple returns to a Saturn retailer and drives away in a VUE. The voiceover says: "When you put people first, you understand their lives can change - a lot. Exchange any new Saturn for another with the 30-day exchange program."

Saturn's TV spots will continue to use music by up-and-coming artists, adding to the contemporary feel of the message. Saturn agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, created the campaign.

In addition to the brand-focused spots, model-line specific commercials carry a similar format and tone, McLaren said. "Door Music," breaking March 8, emphasizes the advantage of dent-resistant door panels on the ION. A rapid succession of objects - football, surf board, shopping cart, street hockey player, children's toys, a bicyclist and even the proverbial kitchen sink - strike an ION, creating a percussive rhythm.

Saturn commercials will air on a variety of network, cable and syndicated programming, including prime-time shows such as "Friends," "ER" and "The OC," and sports properties such as the NFL and the Summer Olympics.

New print advertising with the "People First" theme will begin appearing in weekly and monthly publications on newsstands in April. Ads include the first media advertising for the ION Red Line coupe, Saturn's new supercharged performance compact. Spread ads highlight a customer on one page and a color-on-color photo of the Saturn product on the opposite page. An ION Red Line ad that will run in automotive enthusiast publications shows a young man in a garage and carries the headline, "The Chose Alloy Wheels Over His Girlfriend Guy." Another ION Red Line ad, running in contemporary women's magazines, features a young woman with the headline, "The Perpetually Late Girl," with copy noting that the ION Red Line's performance will help her arrive on time. An ad for the go-anywhere VUE features "The See Every Monument Dad," and will run in active lifestyle publications.
 

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During my 9 months with two saturn IONS, I was very impressed by the sales side of Saturn. The people were low pressure, intelligent, and the Sales reps and I often chatted about other things aside from dealmaking or car buying. Indeed, that approach, including a 60 mile test drive in pouring rain, convinced me to give the brand a try.

Unfortunately, Saturn does not seem to understand BUILD QUALITY. Several car publications have commented on squeaks and rattles and bad fitting parts on their vehicles, including the new ION RED LINE (saturn's response - "we needed to concentrate on handling and performance").
The three ION's I was aquainted with (two were mine, another was in the family) all had squeaks, rattles and vibration that would make a Trabant or Yugo look good.

Also, at least in Los Angeles, CA, Saturn factory service, while polite, proved the most incompetent I have ever had. They would not try to fix intermittant engine problems (resulting in return of the first car). Grease and oil smears on interiors were plentiful, and trim, seats and acessories were destroyed as the techs tried in vain to get rid of the squeaks (they butchered the rear window and brakelight, then wanted to tear the back of the car apart to fix it!). Their work resulted in the second ION being declared a lemon. :pain:

Not it seems Saturn will be buying cars from other GM divisions, such as the Malibu Maxx and a small SUV, without unique plastic surfaces.
It will be interesting to see if the Saturn sales practices survive, and whether or not their service improves, over the next few years. I hope they can. :D
 
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