Range Rover Intends To Reclaim Luxury Image

Range Rover is thinking big with a spot tying the evolution of the world to the launch of the Ford unit’s new supercharged model—one part of its estimated $50 million national campaign kicking off May 18.

The effort, via WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam Brands, Irvine, Calif., is designed to help the carmaker recapture prestige lost to luxury rivals. Planned to run throughout the model year, it includes the visual effects-laden national commercial, print in upscale magazines such as Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado, outdoor and a new version of the automaker’s classy “experiential” road shows with chocolate tastings and orchid-growing tips at spas and polo grounds. Also, product placement will be in this month’s release of the film Monster- In-Law with Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda.

Unlike the client’s most recent commercials, which showed the Range Rover in exotic locales, the new 30-second spot puts the model in the middle of “a glorious timelapse” said Tom Steadman, svp and Land Rover brand team leader, in a cityscape that morphs and evolves into more modern settings, as the camera sweeps the car’s interior to show ebony panels, gauge displays and command rear seating. A fading sunset implies the classic has outlasted the world—until a dome light flicks and a voiceover says: “The new 2006 Range Rover Supercharged: The most powerful, the most luxurious yet.”

Print shows the “jewel-like aspects” of the vehicle’s exterior, said agency ecd Michael Prieve, and headlines echo the heritage theme (“New. Classic. No longer antonyms.”).

Though it once owned the high-end SUV market, Range Rover needs to raise awareness of its luxuriousness, said Natalie Bow, advertising/media manager at Land Rover, Irvine, Calif., part of Ford’s Premier Auto Group.

Bow said Range Rover loyalists were steamed to see recent Mercedes ads claiming it made the first luxury SUV. “Our heritage is important to our owners,” she said, adding that the luxury look positions the line better for the big-spender set that considers the BMW 7 Series, which topped Range Rover’s 13,500 units sales last year with 16,000 in sales, according to manufacturers’ data. Other contenders: the Mercedes S Class (20,500); Lexus GX 470 (35,500); and Cadillac Escalade (37,000).

Bow said Land Rover will up spending by a third to launch Range Rover’s expansion into sport and supercharged versions; it spent $40 million in 2004, per Nielsen Monitor Plus.

Range Rover has “struggled for 10 years to recapture the market that belonged to them,” said analyst Todd Turner of Car Concepts in Thousand Oaks, Calif. “They’ve watched themselves become an also-ran compared to Lexus, BMW and Mercedes.”