Saab: Less TV, More Marketing

ATLANTA-Saab Cars USA is shifting from national television advertising toward relationship marketing with the hiring of Carlson Marketing of Troy, Mich., to handle a majority of its promotional and events sponsorships through 2000.
The first product of the recent appointment will be Carlson’s coordination of this week’s Imax premiere of Extreme in New York. Norcross, Ga.-based Saab is the sponsor of the film.
The long-term contract with Carlson, the first such deal for Saab USA with a promotional agency, also marks an understanding that the car company needs to use alternative means to reach its nontraditional customers, according to client promotions director Elke Martin.
In 1998, Saab conducted only one major promotional activity, a tie-in with the World Ski Association. This year the company has seven major promotions and numerous regional efforts. These include the Imax project and relationships with Gary Fisher mountain bikes and the Killington Stage Race, American Ski Company resorts and Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Carlson will work closely over the next two years with The Martin Agency, Saab’s advertising agency in Richmond, Va. The two shops will align promotions more closely with advertising, said Melody Bryant, Carlson’s event marketing manager. Martin had been responsible for some promotional coordination in the past, but now Carlson will make it a full-time focus.
“[Saab’s] customer base is intelligent and active and aren’t likely to be sitting on the couch watching television or reading a magazine,” Bryant said.
Carlson will help Saab coordinate its 1999 promotional commitments and work to develop a more cohesive plan for 2000.
Martin helped develop Saab’s global “Vs.” campaign, featuring the company’s cars versus examples of conventional wisdom in stark visuals. That campaign is running only on spot cable and in print.
Another Carlson emphasis will be developing the national promotions into regional and dealership programs, and ensuring the efforts are driving customers into Saab’s car showrooms.
Carlson was awarded the Saab job April 30 during a presentation of the marketing company’s capabilities.