Saturn Takes a Trip Through Time

DETROIT — A trip through time in an Ion is the anchor idea in the new Saturn small car’s launch campaign, which breaks in mid-January from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, sources said.

Like “Sheet Metal,” the brand-anthem spot that broke in August for the General Motors unit, the Ion ads eschew typical auto visuals such as beauty shots and running footage for an offbeat take on the human element.

Jill Lajdziak, Saturn vp of sales, service and marketing, declined to discuss creative details, but said the commercials for the Ion, the successor to Saturn’s S-Series model line, “will take the viewer to a visual place they’ve never been before.” Goodby executives couldn’t be reached.

Four Ion executions now in production follow a car of young adults driving through a town populated only by people experiencing the same life experiences, sources said.

In one, citizens pose for photos in tuxedos, dance and mimic typical prom activities. A second takes place in a town filled with partying young adults. The spot opens with a shot of a couch on the side of the road with someone asleep on it.

A third ad shows a town full of people getting married. The Ion passengers look at each other with apprehension, clearly not ready for that life passage. In the fourth, the passengers see an entire town of babies.

The vehicle’s tagline is still being finalized, but is likely to be similar to “Ion: Where will it take you next.”

The work was directed by Noam Murro of Biscuit Filmworks in Hollywood, Calif., who also directed “Sheet Metal.”

Top GM officials had not yet approved the ads as of last week, so the finer points are still subject to tweaking, sources said.

“Sheet Metal,” Goodby’s first work after it won the $300 million Saturn account following a review in January, showed people performing driving activities without vehicles, such as dozens walking down a highway.

Goodby’s ideas for the Ion launch were a factor in the agency winning the Saturn account.

Spending for the Ion launch was undisclosed, but GM product-launch campaigns have ranged from $30-50 million, per CMR. Saturn spent about $150 million on ads in 2001 and about $140 million through the first eight months of 2002.

Ion will be the official vehicle of Survivor 6, to begin airing in February. The Saturn Vue was lead sponsor of Survivor 4. Saturn will tie in to MTV’s Road Rules Challenge and the Game Show Network’s Cram.