Saab Gets New Ad Team in U.S.
By Brendan Moore
General Motors announced today that it is moving responsibility for the Saab account advertising from Lowe Worldwide of NYC to McCann Erickson of Detroit. Both companies are part of the Interpublic Group holding company, so the business is staying with the same corporate parent, but the move is a body blow to Lowe in NYC.
Lowe in New York has been stripped of its last piece of GM business, following the recent exit of GMC, which found a new home at Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett – GM announced the GMC and Buick shifts three months ago and they will be wrapped up by Oct. 1. So, they’re probably a little unhappy there on East 42nd Street today.
On the other side of the coin, the transfer is a big, big plus to McCann Detroit, which earlier this year took its own shot to the mid-section when it lost the Buick account, also to Burnett.
Lowe, which had handled factory duties on Saab since 2001, has not commented on GM’s announcement. Global advertising regarding Saab, which by most accounts, have been quite effective, will continue to be handled by Lowe offices overseas, according to the GM rep. Saab, although in a steady sales decline in the U.S., has set sales records in the rest of the world recently.
Saab spent $55 million on U.S. ads last year, compared to a peak of $100 million spent in 2005, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Saab spent only $6 million in domestic media in the first six months of 2007.
Perhaps this makes sense when viewed in the context of Saab’s recent pronouncements about doing more with less – Saab stated in June of this year that it intended to get back to profitability by selling less vehicles in the United States (see Saab’s New Plan for Profitability – Autosavant, 06.29.07).
Saab does have some new models in the pipe, all of which will be available with AWD, and they cannot come soon enough for GM and its Saab dealers here in the States, because it’s been a long time since Saab had any sales results to be happy about here. And frankly, the best advertising agency in the world can’t do a whole lot if for you if you have product considered uncompetitive or irrelevant by your target market. That, unfortunately, is where Saab finds itself in the U.S. An older platform, driving dynamics that are nowhere close to other premium European sedans, a fading brand image, and a demoralized dealer body all conspire to keep Saab’s appeal low in the United States. The ad agency can only move the needle on one of those things, the brand image; and then only if there is substance (great product) behind the brand image shift.
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