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Saturn Hones Message

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LOS ANGELES Saturn focuses on safety in new TV commercials from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. The ads are intended to amplify the client's "People First" positioning.

An image spot set to break on Sept. 15 shows consumers driving stripped-down versions of its vehicles. The General Motors subsidiary is also launching a spot next week touting the safety of its 2004 L300 sedan.

The ads from Goodby in San Francisco are an extension of a campaign that launched last year with "Sheet Metal," a spot that captured a Gold Lion at the Cannes advertising festival.

Both retain the tagline, "It's different in a Saturn."

The image spot, "Beautiful," opens with a shot of a stripped-down Saturn vehicle. The car lacks windows and much of its roof, allowing leaves to freely fall into its interior. Scenes of people driving these drastically simplified vehicles follow and include a trio cruising through a redwood forest, a woman basking in the sunlight that streams through the open roof and a little girl who gets soaked by the rain that pours into the car. The voiceover says, "Make it safe. Make it useful. Make it strong. And then, make it beautiful." The spot closes with images of four models: the Vue, the Ion Quad Coupe, the L-Series Wagon and the Ion Sedan.

Client ad manager Scott McLaren described the spot as a "natural progression" in the campaign. "We design our products with people in mind," he said, adding that Saturn wanted that message to be "told in a different, intriguing and somewhat visually arresting way. It's a neat way to tell our 'People First' message with the payoff being product-focused."

In showing four different models, Saturn is trying to convey that it is "no longer a small car company" and has expanded its portfolio, he said.

Goodby creative director Jamie Barrett said that while many car ads attempt to impress viewers with beauty shots, a car's appearance is not the most important thing when "you and your family are...driving your car 60 mph on a crowded highway." He added: "It makes the point that Saturn makes beautiful cars, and that beauty is important to us, but in order of priorities, it's down the list."

The "Beautiful" spot will run during programs like ABC's Monday Night Football, ESPN's College Football, Dateline, The Early Show on CBS and the 55th Annual Emmy Awards telecast.

The product-focused spot, "Warnings," touts the L300's safety features. It shows a woman in the sedan waiting at a stop light next to a minivan. The female passenger in the minivan leans out the window and says, "My husband's gonna cut you off when the light turns green." The man smiles and waves and they cut her off. As she drives on, a car next to her swerves and a man is shown holding a beverage and eating. He gleefully announces, "I'm driving with my knees." A third driver informs the woman that he is "really tired" and a boy in the backseat of a fourth vehicle holds up a sign that reads, "We're not insured." The voiceover says, "You don't always know who to avoid out there. That's why the Saturn L300 comes standard with ABS brakes, traction control and ... side air bags."

Saturn chose to focus on safety in the L300 spot because it is a "hot-button" issue for midsize car owners, said McLaren. "This is the only vehicle to have all these safety features standard."

Regarding "Warnings," Barrett said, "Normally when car ads talk about safety they make the point by scaring