A few weeks ago I had a crack at MPH Online about their ed-in-chief’s remarks on the Born of Jets campaign. It’s dead easy to lay in to GM or it’s component companies these days. For some journos and would-be pundits it’s almost considered sport.
Now, SAAB is owned by GM and uses GM and Subaru technology – good, but off-the-shelf. The "Born from jets" is supposed to awaken us to SAAB’s heritage – but where’s the Jet-like technology? Where is the unique styling? Where is the discussion of safety?
"Born from Jets" is going to fail. Using a heritage as a sell-job is always a last-ditch defense but even more so when the heritage bears no resemblance to the offspring.
The comments on this story started off with a few agreeable readers but then some fans seemed to get a hold of the post and (shock, horror!!) disagree with the contention that it was a bad campaign. These people actually liked it and thought it was well thought-out and effective.
Adpulp’s tactic? Brand the agreeable types as phonies from within the company.
As pundits posted comments, rebuttals started to pop up. The opposing viewpoints gushed over the new ads and cars, reading suspiciously like the writings of Saab brand managers, Saab advertising agency executives and Saab dealers.
What a bunch of self-important, egomaniacal bufoons!
Do they think that Saab brand people are out there scouting, watching for every criticism of the ad and co-ordinating counter-responses? Do they think their little post had ANY realistic negative effect on people’s perceptions of the ad campaign whatsoever, let alone one big enough to send the Saab and Lowe execs scurrying, brown-stained-panic-stricken pants and all?
What a bunch of tossers.
Now, let’s have a look at this ‘Born from Jets’ thing once and for all, and make an honest assessment about its legitimacy and effectiveness.
The common theme running through criticism of the campaign is that Saab is no longer the company it was when it was directly involved with aircraft manufacturing. This is true. Can’t argue with that.
When the original Saab automobile, Ursaab, was developed it had a highly aerodynamic shape based on the wing section of an aircraft. Saab’s inclusion of aircraft design themes continued throughout the years, including the use of a riveted aluminium frame for the Sonett I, the curved windshield in the 99 and the more ergonomic cabin in the 900. Saab’s commitment to driver comfort, attentiveness and in turn, safety, were also born from this heritage.
Saab’s aircraft roots were reflected in the fact that whilst they designed cars, they didn’t just do things because ‘that was the way it was done’. The did them in a way that made sense for practical and purposeful reasons. Thus all vehicles were front wheel drive. Turbocharging, the combination of power, thrust and economy. Side impact protection. Heated (and later on, ventilated) seats.
This design attitude has been watered down some in recent years. Being part of a big company and the need for economies of scale in order to survive will do that to you. But do these themes still exist in Saab’s latest product offerings? Well, let’s take a look.
The 9-2x – this is a ring-in vehicle from Subaru intended to be an offering that filled a niche Saab couldn’t address effectively in the short term on a cost/benefit basis. Nevertheless it offers turbocharged engine technology and all-wheel drive. As I’ve said before, the best WRX your money can buy is at your local Saab dealer.
Born of Jets? Not quite. But it’s not core-Saab either. And there’s no "Born from Jets" ad for it at SaabUSA either (which kind of shoots the AdPulp reference to Gm and Subaru in the foot when it comes to this campaign – don’t you think?).
The 9-3 – Here’s where the rubber hits the road. Three model ranges – Sedan, Convertible and SportCombi. All offer turbocharged technology, providing plenty of thrust when needed for safe overtaking and speed when you need it. All offer a driver-focused cabin with intuitively placed controls. Comfortable seats. Black panel lighting for more relaxed night driving. They’ve passed all safety tests with five star, gold plated ratings – both in the US and in Europe. All follow Saab’s classic design cues of form and function, stylish and aerodynamic design, plenty of passive safety to avoid accidents before they happen and a strong environment to protect the driver and passengers should things go south.
Born from Jets? Absolutely. In the 9-3 range, Saab have continued to innovate and improve their vehicles just like they did in the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s – before any GM involvement at all.
As a matter of fact, all the innovations they pioneered in those early days – like diagonally split brake circuits, the famous key between the seats, headlamp washers, safety belts (first car with them as standard equipment – 1958) – all these innovations are still present in today’s cars and have been built upon in the GM era with Trionic engine management, Active Head Restraints, Night Panel and more.
The 9-5 – Two model ranges, the sedan and SportCombi. Pretty much the same as for the 9-3. The 9-5 is Saab’s premium vehicle and offers all the same safety features and design cues. It’s not a dragster, but a 9-5 Aero will get you from cruising speed to overtaking speed in bullet-quick fashion and whilst it might now be a little slower than a Ferrari at doing this (the 9000 Aero was faster) I can guarantee you that you’ll arrive at your destination in better shape.
Born of Jets? Darn right!
The 9-7x – Again, a ring-in to the range, but with more Saab design cues than the 9-2x. The 9-7x offers the driver-centred cabin that the 9-2x lacks and plenty of flexibility. All the people that I’ve read about (there’s a few happy owners at Saab Central) seem to be very pleased with the vehicle indeed.
Born From Jets? Not quite, but with it’s Saab designed cabin and better roadholding capability than it’s GM360 siblings, it’s a lot closer than the 9-2x.
So that all brings me back to my fellow bloggers at AdPulp.
Saab has two very notable factors in it’s DNA. No 1 – It’s really safe. No, 2 – It has an aeronautical heritage that’s influenced its design since 1947 (even earlier, in fact). Now, which would you choose?
Saab. We’re really safe. (Zzzzzzz)
Saab. Born from Jets. (Cool!)
If you’re object is to sell cars, then you take the Born from Jets line as your primary tag. Every time. You make a bunch of cool looking ads and you try and establish a footing in the mind of the market. You build the campaign.
As mentioned above, they haven’t used it for the 9-2x (on the website at least, I can’t say about the TV campaign as I’m in Australia) but they have used for all the rest of the range, including the 9-7x. Why? Well, common sense says that if you’ve got limited funds available to you for marketing, which Saab does, you maximise the exposure and bring a good, uniform campaign to the marketplace.
AdPulp, I’m no Saab insider. I am a Saab nut and make no apologies for that. I believe your brief criticism of the Born From Jets campaign is flawed and I beleive I’ve addressed the reasons why. Don’t be surprised if you have others that rally behind the Saab flag when you try a cheap shot. Saab enthusiasts are die-hard types and it’s highly likely they know a lot more about the company, its heritage and its current lineup than you do.