“Born From Jets” Comes In For Refueling

According to Brandweek, Saab USA, the GM division, will amp up its “Born From Jets” campaign in December, after a dealer council meeting to study first-month results of the campaign.
Sadvertising isn’t buying it, though.

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.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Saab's New Ad Campaign: What's In a Name?

    Likeliness That A New Ad Campaign Will Revive Saab's Fortunes: It came to me this morning when reading Brian Steinberg's excellent piece on Saab's new ad campaign in the The Wall Street Journal: one of the few ads I still remember fro…

  2. I posted on the campaign about a week ago, and came to a similar conclusion. Good stuff, David, as always!
    The most interesting development on my blog since then: one visitor after another coming to Being Reasonable looking for the song in the TV ad – and only very few people looking to find out more about Saab, or the campaign as a whole.

  3. This sort of campaign worked in the UK in the mid-1980s, for example, when Saab was owned by Saab, and there were models named after the jet fighters. I saw it for the first time advertising the 9-7X and thought, ‘What does an Oldsmobile Bravada have in common with jets?’ Except maybe corporate jets flying GM bigwigs around. And they ain’t made by Saab.


  5. did saab ultimately fail in the jet-building business? looks like their car business might go the same direction.
    most consumers would probably prefer to deal with carmakers that make cars.

  6. If you know anything about Saab, the new V6 was produced in Australia. Saab engineers were brought in to help produce the turbo (turbine) in the V6. Turbines are used in jets right? Saab also has a reliable 4 cylinder turbo that has been produced for years (I have one with 188,000 miles on it), has great torque and is great on gas. So jet heritage exists, don’t knock it and credit the company for attempting to upgrade its popularity in the U.S.

  7. gee, Al, you sound like a saab engineer.
    if you knew anything about advertising, you’d realize consumers don’t give a rat’s ass about heritage unless it’s relevant to the product benefits.
    the benefits derived from a heritage of building jets seem fuzzy at best.
    hell, the saab jet commercial isn’t even as good as other car commercials using jet imagery (nissan did a great one a few years back with tony or jake scott directing, i think).
    so they’ve got a tired concept executed with a tired commercial.
    but that’s just my biased opinion.

  8. There are two SAABs now, SAAB Ab still builds adanced Jet fighters for the Swedish, Czech, British, Hungarian, South African, and many other air forces, as well as parts for Airbus, and some other military stuff. Saab Automobile is the GM owned half, which officially split from SAAB Ab in 2001.
    It’s only been four years since the split. It’s a very relevant and recent heritage. There is still a heavy emphasis on having an “aircraft” approach to the design of the cars. The SAAB 9-7x is far from an Oldsmobile Bravada, and you can tell when you drive the car. The Subaru deal was a mistake, but thankfully GM cut that this month. There will be no future SAABs based on Subarus, and the only current one is slated to be shelved in the next few years.

  9. having opinions is imperative to our business. diverse opinions can make things even more interesting.
    but it seems like everyone in support of this new saab campaign sounds like a saab dealer and/or saab marketing professional (client side or agency side).
    it’s great that these folks are behind their stuff. but it doesn’t make the shit smell any better. sorry, saab lovers.

  10. Yeah, what High Jive said.
    And since when are a bunch of PR flacks welcome here?

  11. i agree. you can only put lipstick on a pig for so long. saab is heading towards complete irrelevance unless they can use the design and technology in their favor…or find a way to get the next year’s model in the next blockbuster movie. in the 80s, it was very hip to have a saab…now, it’s just another quasi-luxury brand…just like, in my opinion, absolut vodka. there is nothing hip or cool about saab anymore and jets ain’t gonna fix it.

  12. I have an ’87 saab turbo, it has 230,000 miles and is still running strong; supposedly the engines in the GM models are of the same caliber. And the 9-7x, bravada, and blazer all have the same chassis with a different badge. There are still the classic saab features in todays Saabs, such as the key in the center console, but things have obviously been changed…

  13. Hey, here’s a thought:
    GM announced plans to slash 30,000 jobs and close nine U.S. plants. Plus, their CEO is requesting government assistance for turning the company around.
    They should propose a deal. The government offers financial and political help in exchange for Saab jet fighters.
    It’s a win-win scenario for everyone.
    Oh, but the new Saab advertising campaign will still be a contrived pile of shit.

  14. Maybe it’s just me, but my biggest problem with this campaign is the clumsy tag “Born From Jets”. It feels stilted and artificial. Emotionally cold. It doesn’t evoke any kind of passion, which is a key to selling cars.
    In fact, it kind of has the ring of a bad translation. Try saying it out loud a few times in a row and you’ll actually feel like you’re speaking Swedish (Bjorn froom Yets?).

  15. I think that Saab has finally hit it with their new line, “Born from jets.” After years, no decades, of slogging around positioning their brand along the lines of cars for intelligent people, or intelligent cars for intelligent people, they have gone back to their creation story to find their true position in the marketplace. And, after years of posturing, they speak from the heart.
    “Saab”, after all, is an acronym that means something like Swedish Aeronautic Airplane Bureau. (I’m making up the acronym but, fact is, before Saab made cars they made airplanes.)
    If you check the historical reel, Saab’s advertising agencies have always come up with a jet commercial or two. Why they seized upon this positioning at this particular point in time is curious.
    If you own a Saab turbo you know it has torque that limply rivals a BMW, Porsche or most other macadam monsters out there.
    What you don’t get with a Saab–and what you might get now if GM supports the campaign with sorely-needed ad bucks–is the layer of advertising to back up what Saab owners already feel.

  16. Coca-Cola and Pepsi were originally medicinal products, sold as headache and stomach ache remedies. Motorola created communications devices for the military before designing cell phones. Ray Kroc sold milkshake machines before hamburgers. The list goes on. Big fucking deal. Why don’t these marketers embrace their heritage? Because it would be really dumb, on so many levels.
    Heritage is a tired tactic embraced by desperate advertisers seeking a unique selling proposition in a parity marketplace. Heaven forbid they should try to build a unique product. Or simply realize their positions and strive to create a unique brand image based on consumer benefits versus manufacturer vanity.
    I think the acronym here could read, “Sad Advertiser Acting Badly.”

  17. I think you guys are just being cynical, possibly because you don’t like SAABs, nor understand why certain people do. It seems interesting to me that people who own SAABs tend to really love them. Why is the Born from Jets thing such a big deal? Who cares? Get over yourselves.
    I think it’s great, and it will appeal to young buyers.

  18. No, we’re being cynical because we’ve been around the block in the ad world. I, for one, have nothing against Saab. It’s their latest ads that suck.
    As for getting over myself, how about you worry about you, and I’ll worry about me. Can you handle that? Good.

  19. Your basically saying they’re terrible ads because you don’t like them.
    Have you seen Saab’s previous ads? They were aweful! “Born from jets” is a thousand times more exciting than “The state of independance.” Give Saab a little credit for trying jesus.

  20. It’s really lame for people to sit and complain about something without giving counter-ideas of their own, at least do that.
    What do YOU think Saab should do? Go back to “Saabs were born in the state of independance” ?!?!?

  21. The AdPulp team would be more than happy to provide ideas to Saab. Should the marketing execs in Detroit wish to contract with us for $200/hour, we’ll concept our asses off on their behalf.

  22. I second what David just said. And don’t forget the free convertibles. We need to become familiar with the product.

  23. Interesting food for thought. I was in the old campaign (I was the lawyer-guy) who definitely took the most risks out of anyone listed, IMHO and now I wonder about the new campaign:
    I saw it on TV twice and was actually intrigued, but perhaps that is my bias because all I’ve driven for the past 10 years are BMW and SAAB, two companies with obvious aeronautical heritage. I had one RX-7 Turbo II in that time period, and when the clutch went out a guy bought it for the engine; put it in a airplane.
    Bottom line: Other cars have improved a lot over the past 20 years, and SAAB still needs to distinguish itself. The sport kombi is a good idea/direction, I think, in addition to the convertible. The SUVs, if they catch on, can bring much-needed cash flow.
    But what do I know? I’m just trying to stay outta’ jail!!!

  24. I like how people supporting a brand are automatically labeled as employees of said brand.

  25. I think we recognize that you are a genuine Saab enthusiast, Dan. And that’s great. I’m sure Saab is happy to have you argue their case. But in today’s over-saturated media environment, where paid word-of-mouth has sadly become a common practice, no one really knows who to believe anymore.

  26. There’s a funny thing that happens to ad experts. They sometimes forget that John and Jane Public don’t think too much about the structure of an ad campaign.
    Hence, there’s a rift in opinion on the Saab commercial.
    1. Ad People – many see the ad as technically flawed to the point where they’re personally insulted. Comment: Don’t make another commercial like this again.
    2. Everyone else – In one commercial, they see jets flying in formation racing behind a slick looking new car. In another, the jet transforms itself into a car. Comment: It’s just simply fun to watch, especially when it comes after 10 paranoia producing pharma spots. How come all commercials can’t be entertaining?
    Unless they’re turned off by the military aspect, the people (read potential consumers) I’ve polled really enjoy watching the spot. This campaign is simply about association. Jet fighters = cool, Saab = cool.
    Ad people take note – this is important. Last I checked, commercials are made to advance the brand image in the mind of the potential consumer. Most people, don’t care if none of the parts come from Sweden, or that Saab is owned by GM. They like seeing cool footage of jets and cars and some will associate the two when it comes time to get a new ride.
    BTW: I don’t work nor have I ever worked for either GM or Lowe.

  27. Chris,
    You were simply compelled by your own curiosity to poll people on the spots? While you may not be employed by GM or Lowe, you’re actually doing pro bono work at this point.
    Happy holidays.

  28. More ‘Born of Jets’ whining

    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 …

  29. Product Love Tazmanian Style

    People love their cars. So, it’s only natural that our ill treatment of Saab and their sorry advertising would raise the ire in Saab’s most devout brand evangelists. Here’s what Swade, a.k.a. Steve Wade, a Saab lover from from Tazmania…

  30. Good point, HighJive, but isn’t this entire thread pro bono advertising for Saab and GM?
    Happy holiday’s to you too.

  31. You know what they say…
    “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

  32. Saab’s new Born from Jets ads are effective “heritage oriented” marketing. Essentially what they do is narrate a brand story. This brand story is more valuable now ahead of aspects of the narrative that may or may not be present in the actual product for a few years.
    Case in point: Apple came out with the Think different campaign which told the story of the company’s rebellious “outside the box” way of looking at the world, and related genius to that notion. In the late 90’s people just wanted beige PC boxes.
    So they came out with colorful iMacs. Outside the box but not exactly genius. They kept the branding story going of course to the point where it was ingrained in the public’s mind. People know Apple as the company that “thinks different” (as opposed to thinking differently).
    Then they came out with the iPod. Revolutionary in its signature round dial control pad. The “click wheel” is unique to only Apple’s MP3 players. And the relationship to the round wheel to the rectangular display is also signature defining. It is iconic this relationship. You can diagram an iPod with just three strokes of a pencil. A big rectangle with a smaller one up top and a circle beneath it. Anybody would recognise it.
    What Saab is probably doing is following a similar path. They can tell the branding story in preparation for the real innovations which will secure themselves to the branding story when they come out. Just watch. It will happen. We are going to see cars which are even more aeronautically inspired!

  33. Wow, Architosh, you’ve really been drinking the jet fuel-flavored Kool-Aid. Your brand loyalty is admirable, albeit slightly scary.
    It’s fascinating how you drew parallels between Apple and Saab. There are certainly similarities. Except for just a couple of key things:
    1. Apple produces award-winning, breakthrough advertising to support a brand that produces award-winning, breakthrough products.
    2. Saab produces contrived, typical advertising to support a brand that produces contrived, typical cars.
    Other than that, you’re right — Apple and Saab are almost identical.

  34. As I said earlier, I don’t mind this sort of advertising when Saab was owned by Saab. It worked in the 1980s. But since half the models are on Opel Vectra platforms and the other half are Japanese and American, and GM has said that product development will take place in Rüsselheim, Germany, I have some difficulty accepting the tagline. Brands should be more transparent in the 2000s, and unless Saab Cars is willing to incorporate some jet-like technology, then this campaign is more cynical than suitable.

  35. Thought I’d open myself up for direct assult and at the same time defend our choice in development of the “Born Form Jets” campaign.
    I am the Saab Advertising Manager.
    For those who believe there is little of the “Born From Jets” advertising reflected in the current Saab products. I would direct your attention to the http://www.saabusa.com where extensive proof points are listed.
    As for the strategic direction… “Born From Jets” is the most consumer relevant answer to the question; “Why buy a Saab?”. Saab’s aircraft heritage provides the foundation with which to explain the benefits of Saab’s uniquely designed and engineered vehicles.
    The initial creative was purposely designed to overtly establish the fact that Saab was literally “Born from Jets”. This foundation is essential. We have found that once this fact is established it causes consumers to seek out more information. Whether through our website or through a visit to a dealership (both of which have seen increased traffic after the new creative started).
    Based on the previous posts, I doubt I will be successful in changing your perspective on the campaign. Everyone’s an advertising expert (or at least they think they are). At the end of the day the results speak for themselves.

  36. GM Gets Blogs. TV Is Another Story.

    Good PR people today recommend that clients jump fearlessly in to the bloatosphere and join the conversation, as opposed to pretending it isn’t happening. Nathan Lyst of General Motors has taken that advise to heart. Here’s what he has to…

  37. I actually like the “Born from Jets” commerical.
    DISCLAIMER (I drive a Saab Viggen and this is my 2nd Saab. I also spent time in the USAF dealing with F-15’s)
    The “Born from Jets” spot is the best commerical I have seen by Saab.
    I will take a Saab over a BMW anytime. While BMW has some nice cars that can out perform a Saab In my opinion most of the BMW line is over-rated.

  38. I think it’s highly admirable that Nathan came in to defend his campaign—thank you. Nathan, you’re right that I remain somewhat unconvinced, but providing us with some of what you saw does help us understand your decision.

  39. Someone who hates all-knowing bloggers says:

    “Motorola created communications devices for the military before designing cell phones. Big fucking deal. Why don’t these marketers embrace their heritage?”
    Gee, HighJive, you mean like this?

  40. someone,
    can’t believe someone’s still wanting to debate this one. the ad you referenced is at least a decade old. i actually personally know the creatives who produced it. anyway, motorola long ago saw that heritage is not as inspiring as embracing progress.
    also, you shouldn’t react so emotionally to everything we type.

  41. HighJive, if you’re trying to be an asshole, you’re being very successful.

  42. Ubermich says:

    Yes, this is old, but it’s new to me, so get over it.
    I don’t watch much TV. I prefer to do stuff with my time. So I was rather shocked when I was over at a friend’s house and he said, “Have you seen the new Saab ad!? It’s pretty cool! They have a jet that turns into one of their new cars!” He then went on for several minutes trying to explain what part of the jet turns into what part of the 9-7x. This guy doesn’t even own a Saab. He’s never even *looked* at a Saab. He wants to drive F-150s and F-250s his whole life. But MAN he thought that commercial was cool!
    The point is this. The ad campaign really doesn’t mean jack. You know this. I know this. Most Saab buffs know this. But the ad campaign does DO something. It puts two cool things together: cars and jets. And it puts a name on the combination of these two “cool” things for Joe Schmoe: Saab.
    I don’t know if they’re still vigorously showing these ads, but if they are I challenge you to ask your friends (ad buffs or not) what they think of when you say “cars and jets”. I’d be willing to bet that either A) they will come up with something creative like “jet cars” or “jetsons”… or B) they will say “Saab.”
    Regardless of whether you like the ad or not, it is effective. It’s even a lie! But the general public really doesn’t care about that because it’s *cool*.

  43. can’t believe someone’s still wanting to debate this one. the ad you
    referenced is at least a decade old. i actually personally know the
    creatives who produced it. anyway, motorola long ago saw that heritage
    is not as inspiring as embracing progress.
    also, you shouldn’t react so emotionally to everything we type.