Suzuki: ‘Live Large, Drive Small’

LOS ANGELES Siltanen & Partners is launching its first work for American Suzuki Motor, introducing the tagline, “Live large. Drive small.”

The spots, which began breaking over the weekend, focus on young people enjoying outdoor fun in their Suzukis. The work features guitar music and casually delivered voiceovers.

“In all my years of automotive, you would never use small in an ad,” said Rob Siltanen, principal and creative chief at the Marina del Rey, Calif., independent shop. “You used to hide it with the word ‘compact.’ Today, small is the new big. Suzuki is perfectly positioned for this economy.”

As for the voiceovers, “I looked for a voiceover that had a youthfulness, not the classic voiceover style,” said Siltanen. “It has an everyman quality that’s inviting.”

In one spot, a group of 20-somethings buys a gigantic innertube from an auto graveyard and heads to a waterhole with their curious dog. A voiceover outlines the SX4 features along the way, concluding, “Just because there’s a gas crisis doesn’t mean there has to be a fun crisis.” In another commercial, mountain climbers, surfers, bikers, skiers hit the road with the Grand Vitara.

Several ads make direct comparisons between the SX4 and BMW’s Mini, a creative strategy for which Siltanen has become known, stretching back to his work on Nissan at Chiat\Day and as recently as project work for Hyundai.

One such spot, directed by Bully Films’ Craig Tanamoto, shows the Suzuki speeding around town with a lightning bolt insignia and a red cape trailing behind it as the “Ride of the Valkyries” plays on the soundtrack. The spot ends with the line, “It’s mightier than the Mini.”

A two-minute animated tale for Grand Vitara, intended to run in movie theaters and replete with plush-toy promotions, tells of how the “SUV-asaurus” once roamed the earth, with people driving them without thinking (a boy asks his mother to be driven next door). When gas prices rise, the beasts become extinct. Enter the Suzuki GV, getting 26 mpg and with “more horsepower than a Honda CRV” to make life fun again for everyone but SUV-asauruses.

Double-page spreads for Grand Vitara show snowboarders, skiers, bikers, rock climbers, surfers in action in the cutout letters “GV” against black, with copy on the right page touting feature comparisons. SX4 print uses the same design, but with images of club scenes within the characters.

Interactive ads for the GV use the headline “Watch out Honda CR-V.” When users click through, the car grows a mouth with teeth and penetrates the border of the ad, then settles back with comparison features.

“Scoreboard” interactive ads show the SX4 vs. the Mini and asks questions such as, “Which offers all-wheel drive?”

A banner ad for the SX4 navigation system shows a now obsolete paper map being folded into an origami bird.

Siltanen conceived the work with creative partner Joe Hemp and John Payne. Nancy Dickerson and Jonathan Whitehead produced the spots directed by Ken Arlidge of Aero Films, Santa Monica, Calif.

Siltanen said that with research showing that “nobody knows about [Suzuki], it is important to connect with youth, through music, the voiceover, the story that we tell. The campaign is eclectic, but it ties together under ‘Live large, Drive small.’ ”

Siltanen’s first campaign breaks as the Brea, Calif.-based automaker is struggling, down 32 percent in the month of August, and 5 percent this year to 70,000 units, per Car Concepts.

Suzuki spent over $130 million advertising its models in 2007, and $60 million through June 2008, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.