Harriet Green profiles the marketing head willing to gamble on one-off
Gary Savage is a courageous man. As head of marketing at Seat UK, he’s
behind a daring advertising initiative which he hopes will re-invigorate
the entire Seat range.
Savage is gambling half his marketing budget on a series of eight soap-
opera commercials which will unfold every Saturday evening over the next
eight weeks (Campaign, last week).
What’s so strange about that? Well, the 90-second commercials, made by
Leagas Shafron Davis, will be shown just once each. A pretty risky media
choice - especially considering the expensive-sounding names associated
with the venture: the ads have been filmed by the Blackadder director,
Geoff Posner, and they star Dennis Waterman and Jean Boht.
But if Savage is a teensy bit anxious about the aftermath of the
campaign, he’s giving nothing away. ‘It would have been a bigger risk to
have carried on along the same path,’ he insists. ‘That would not have
moved the awareness of Seat. Launching a traditional TV advertising
campaign would have been like farting in a thunderstorm.’
Savage explains the reasons for wanting to achieve a point of difference
- in Europe, the Volkswagen-owned Seat brand achieves a 2.5 per cent
awareness; in the UK, however, it secures a pitiful 0.7 per cent. ‘We
have failed to exploit the potential of an incredible product,’ he
The 12 minutes of film will also be used for below-the-line promotions,
such as video mailing to existing and potential customers. It’s part of
an initiative that aims to release Seat from its stereotype as
Volkswagen’s poor relation. ‘People look on Seat as a Volkswagen at a
lower price. That has no long-term merit for us. There will be parity in
pricing in future.’
Savage, 34, who joined Seat from Mazda in 1988, rising to head of
marketing two years later, has another trick up his sleeve. He has
recruited the services of the PR guru, Max Clifford. Savage, however, is
coy about Clifford’s brief. Watch out for tabloid headlines claiming
‘Freddie Starr ran over my hamster in his Seat Toledo’.