Saturn Corp. is putting new emphasis on its cars and reaching first-time car buyers with its advertising.
But Mary Ellen Miller, Saturn's national advertising manager, said, 'although we will focus more on the products in regional (ads), we will continue to focus on our company, its employees and customers.'
Still, the shift to product-oriented ads marks a major change in Saturn's marketing philosophy. Miller said Saturn already does some price and product advertising, but the company will now 'focus on some things that are unique about the Saturn vehicle.'
The audience shift, from national to regional, is likely to affect the media mix for Saturn's nearly $200 million ad budget.
'Our dealers want more value-focused advertising,' Don Hudler, chairman and president of Saturn, told Advertising Age, a sister publication of Automotive News. 'We tend to focus on the Saturn experience and how Saturn differs from other car companies. There's lots of competition that's price-based.'
Miller added: 'Our key competitors - Honda, Nissan and Toyota - have been in the marketplace longer than we have. But we now have some history behind our product and we've got a little more data and confidence that our products continue to be a viable competitor in more ways than we've been able to talk about in the past.'
Miller said the new ads will begin to appear in August and run through the 1998 model year.
The shift to product-oriented ads is 'just the factor of us growing up a little bit and we think we should start to say it,' Miller said.
Dave O'Hare, creative director at San Francisco-based Hal Riney & Partners, Saturn's ad agency, said, 'We'll now be focusing on the inside of the car.'
The new spots may delve into topics like dent resistant doors and what they mean in terms of car depreciation, O'Hare said.
The new campaign will employ self-effacing humor and broaden its target from import intenders to include first-time buyers.
'We want to tell the Saturn story in a way that younger people will hear it,' O'Hare said.
He said that many first-time car buyers were as young as 10 when the first Saturn was built in 1990.
Saturn also plans a new round of advertising for GM's EV1 electric car, sold only by Saturn dealers via leases in Southern California and Arizona.