It's a Jungle Out There for Land Rover's Discovery

Forget shots of trucks tackling rugged terrain in exotic locales. In Land Rover’s new dealer effort for its 2004 Discovery SUV, the real adventure is at the dealership.

The national campaign, which breaks today via WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam in Irvine, Calif., extends the client’s dealership-as-star positioning—initially used this summer in a spot for the Freelander model—to the Discovery, the oldest vehicle in Land Rover’s U.S. lineup. (The model, which reported sales of 14,830 vehicles from January-October, up 4 percent from the comparable period in 2002, was first sold here in 1994.)

The work aims to show how different Land Rover’s dealerships are from others and how drivers can test vehicles in a rugged setting there.

In a rough cut of one 30-second TV spot, “Safari,” a man drives a Discovery on what appears to be a safari as he cautions a female passenger and two kids to lock the doors. “It’s pretty wild out there,” he says. He then exclaims, “Look! In the brush—a felis angora!” It turns out to be a domestic cat sitting in front of the dealership.

A rough cut of another spot shows a man at a dealership driving his new Discovery excitedly over a speed bump. Both spots include the voiceover: “Begin your adventure at a local Land Rover Centre.”

The effort also includes radio and print, said Sharon Corrigan, retail communications manager at the Irvine-based advertiser.

About 90 percent of the Ford-owned British automaker’s 160 Land Rover Centres have a rock course that lets consumers test the vehicles’ off-road capabilities, and the rest are expected to add courses soon, said Y&R operations supervisor Chris Wallrapp. The dealerships resemble lodges, and their sales people are called “guides,” Corrigan said.

“[Prior to this year], I don’t think we’ve … shown how the Land Rover Centre differentiates us from our competition,” she said.

The Freelander spot that broke this summer humorously shows a nervous customer driving on the course.

Spending is undisclosed. Adspend for the model was $20 million-plus through August, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Land Rover expects to spend at least that on Discovery ads next year, said Corrigan.

The goal is to “develop a format that will allow us to do this retail work in a way that absolutely reflects what the brand is all about,” said John Hage, svp and group creative director at Y&R, adding the work aims to show offerings “inherent to Land Rover,” like seven-passenger seating.

The Discovery, redesigned for the 2003 model year, is dwarfed by mid-size luxury SUVs such as the Lexus RX 330 (No. 1, with 73,347 vehicles reported sold from January-October) and the Acura MDX (No. 2, 46,553).

“Land Rover needs to change its marketing message a little bit,” said Todd Turner, president of automotive consultancy Car Concepts in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “They keep driving home the same argument about off-road capabilities. Everyone knows that. They don’t know that they’re quiet, comfortable and refined.”