SUV Plan Crucial In Subaru Review

Subaru of America will pick a winner in its $165 million media and creative review based on which of the four finalists can craft a launch plan for a 2006 sport utility vehicle that takes the nameplate up the car-buyer economic scale without sacrificing the brand’s “anti-status” core values, sources said.

Executives at the four agencies—Interpublic Group’s The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.; the New York office of IPG’s McCann-Erickson; Omnicom Group’s DDB; and WPP Group’s Berlin Cameron/ Red Cell—were briefed simultaneously last Wednesday at the client’s Cherry Hill, N.J., headquarters. Final presentations will occur at the end of September, sources said.

Though no name has been chosen, one source said the SUV will have some sort of alphanumeric moniker. “They want to position the SUV as an ‘upmarket’ brand,” said the source, adding that agencies were not told the vehicle’s name. “But they also want a campaign that retains the brand values of Subaru.”

Sources variously described the Subaru consumer as “anti-badge,” “anti-status,” “outdoorsy” and “intellectually curious.” The brand has long appealed to buyers outside the mainstream. (Gay car buyers are a major target, one source noted.)

The company, a division of Fuji Heavy Industries in Japan, wants to compete in the U.S. with European imports such as Audi, sources said.

A Subaru rep would not elaborate on the briefing except to say, “Our goal is to be a premium brand. That’s top of mind.”