Riney Furthers Saturn Evolution

Saturn will continue its efforts to “contemporize” its brand in marketing behind a new sport utility vehicle, the VUE, a company executive said.

Ads supporting the vehicle are due this fall from lead Saturn agency Pub licis & Hal Riney in San Francisco. They will highlight the VUE’s attributes, but also put a fresh face on the Saturn brand overall, said Jill Lajdziak, vice president of Saturn sales, service and marketing.

“We don’t want to lose the essence of who we are, so we will stay focused on the Saturn brand,” she said. “But we have to show we are more than just the country settings” seen in earlier advertising.

As an example of the image Saturn is after, upcoming TV spots for the VUE and other models will show the vehicles in urban settings, Lajdziak said.

The VUE is priced under $20,000 and aimed at the younger end of Saturn’s 25-44-year-old target market. The media buy will include the sort of hip publications and TV shows the automaker has not traditionally used, Lajdziak said.

Saturn, a unit of General Motors, unveiled two specialized versions of the VUE, a compact SUV, during the press preview at the Chicago Auto Show last week. The vehicle is part of an ongoing marketing program to build enthusiasm among potential buyers.

More than 70,000 people have signed up through the Internet and Saturn’s toll-free number, as well as at auto shows, to receive information about the VUE as it nears production. Of those, 60 percent are non-Saturn owners, according to the automaker.

The vehicle will go on sale during the fourth quarter, but TV spots won’t break until next spring, Lajdziak said. Print ads will launch in the fall, with direct and Internet marketing leading up to that.

Collateral materials for the VUE so far have featured the tagline “A new perspective on the SUV.” Lajdziak declined to say if that tag will be used in advertising. Saturn’s overall tag has been, “A different kind of company. A different kind of car.”

Riney began the effort to update Saturn’s image during the 2000 Summer Olympics.

Saturn is one of GM’s strongest brands, and the automaker plans to invest heavily in it, said Ronald Zarrella, GM’s North American president. The VUE “is key to GM’s attack on the entry-level market,” he said.