CLOSE-UP: CLIENT OF THE WEEK; Brave chief to revitalise Seat

Harriet Green profiles the marketing head willing to gamble on one-off TV ads

Harriet Green profiles the marketing head willing to gamble on one-off

TV ads

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’.

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