Saab ad: ‘A cold day in hell….’

Following on from the two Saab ads that debuted yesterday, another of Saab’s new Wall Street Journal ads has been posted on Saab’s Facebook page.


The text reads as follows:

Go ahead. Tell us it can’t be done. They said a car company founded by aircraft engineers would never fly. We didn’t have the sense to listen. In 1947 we put a wing on wheels and never looked back. In the ’60s if you wanted to compete in rally racing, they said you needed a larger, high-powered car. We won back to back World Championships with nothing more than a little family car. In the ’70s they said turbo power wouldn’t work in a mainstream production car. We not only tamed the turbo, we changed the industry forever. In the ’80s they said four-seater convertibles were a thing of the past. We built a cult classic. Fast forward to last year, they said our best days were done. But once again, our ears must not have been working. Because today, Saab is back. We’re an independent company flying higher than ever. Case in point, the all-new Saab 9-5 Sport Sedan. The most advanced Saab ever built. To be followed this spring by the capable 9-4x Sport Crossover. Soon after that, an entirely reinvented lineup. And we have a lot more coming out of Sweden after that. Just don’t expect any of it to follow convention.


I love the sentiment. Absolutely fantastic. One of the things I’ve always found most attractive about Saab is that they’re unconventional and that they punch above their weight. I’m just really pleased to see them playing this up.

I’m going to provide a practical, fixable nitpick just this once, though, for the benefit of whoever’s reviewing the ad copy….. The word ‘capable’ isn’t as aspirational as the 9-4x deserves.

Otherwise, love it.

77 thoughts on “Saab ad: ‘A cold day in hell….’”

  1. I like it… I just wish the ending of it was a little more suspenseful..
    as is… it reads a little ho-hum.

    But, it is better than nothing and nothing is what we have been dealing with for the last year or so.

  2. way to go!! about time.!! we need to see more add …tv commercials etc…some kind of reticular memory…the more you see the more you associate!! it work for my company i dont see why it wouldnt work for saab!!!

  3. I love these ads. I couldn’t have written them better myself (except that I agree with Swade that capable could be changed to talented or accomplished to describe the 9-4x). I really like how they’re telling the story first person, “We believe that…our values are…” I don’t think there could be much more writing on the page for it to still be effective. I like that every day there’s a new story to read. For what it is, it’s a well done campaign.

  4. Back in the days of my impressionable, and sometimes distorted, youth of the early ’70’s, one of the things that got me interested in Saabs was their print advertising, which is all that they did in those days. It seemed to me, here in the US, that automotive ads consisted of a photo with a few large print words, to convey some kind of an image. A Saab ad was about text. You were supposed to read it, and learn about the product. And compared to an American car, there was a lot to learn about a Saab 99. I like these new ads. I like informative text. These ads are a blast from the past. I just hope that the average 21st century American will be able to take the time to read it, and not just skim it before flipping to the next page.

    • You are so right Ed!
      Saab must engage their readers, there is absolute valuse in that. Saab is not just a car, itยดs a story with much pride.

      And if saab spread that even more the brand will grow in sales.

      I like read ads, otherwise you only se the picture with punch line every car maker could come up with. This is more, and I really like this ad as a first impression. Itยดs not hard to analyse it till death and find fault but as a first impression itยดs good.

    • I couldn’t agree more, I think this could be the differentiating point in SAAB’s advertising campaigns, where others are doing smart and witty ads we are doing smart and witty cars and the ads are here to explain that.

    • I still remember the magazine ad back in the 70’s that read something to the effect of “The only other production turbo available is a Porsche”. As a kid I immediately was drawn to the whaletail and the soccer ball wheels.
      I remember thinking what a neat company that would put a turbo into such a family car! I’ve been a fan a Saab ever since.

  5. Just had one of those days here in Philly – 17″ of snow overnight. I was cruising around the neighborhood in my Turbo-X with no problems the next morning on a plow packed bed..snow flying up over the front spoiler, hood, and roof. Amazing!

    Bring on those ads! Saab up!

  6. Fantastic message to the public. Saab as a company making cars is here and it is here to stay.
    Work well done!

    Now, next step: Tell them about the cars and why you should buy one.

    • Studies show that when you include captions under spot visuals – with the captions presenting “reasons why” – readership of an ad increases dramatically.

  7. I think the copy is superb……..but thought exactly that as I was reading “capable” is far too understated, we don’t want to build up for the big let down, but at the very least it should be positioned as …… it’s going to be the next champion euro crossover in its class in terms of power, performance and safety with euro styling.

  8. I like what I’m seeing from the new ad campaign thus far. Really paints the true picture of the brand. The only other piece of the puzzle that would be ideal to have – though I suspect not feasible – is a very compelling warranty. If memory serves, 5-10 years ago Hyundai put its money where its mouth was touting its new cars by backing them with a 10 year 100K mile warranty. Granted, when you’re a huge conglomerate like Hyundai you can do that. But the point is that the warranty alone probably got new customers into the brand when the cars in and of themselves probably didn’t. At this point Hyundai is a (I can still barely believe it) respected, rising brand here. But this is the competitive environment in the US auto marketplace and SAAB have got to go above and beyond on the warranty front to show its own faith in the build quality of their cars.

  9. Writing “capable” they trying to be modest, imho… Love it in every word. And it’s is nie to read that not only me missed SAAB ads.

    p.s. Hyunday a car brand? Gimme a break!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. YES!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    What I have been saying (also here) and wanting for a long time: Announcements that proudly describes Saabs innovative and non-conform heritage and the will to continue that way!!
    (So many people are not aware of Saabs innovations and influence on the entire industry) Great!!

  11. Is it me or are there some printing errors in the announcement:
    1. In the headline : is instead of ; us ???
    2. Last part (after “the capable 9-4X…) Soon aftet than… Soon after that.. (???)

    Or is it my bad English making me missing some points ?

    • I just think it is the transcription of the ad. Look at the image then you can see the original text, were for example “Go ahead. Tell us it can’t be done.

          • RS: I live in Denmark…. The 9-5 is unaffordable for a humble architect and designer ๐Ÿ˜‰ For me personally, its also to big (especially to park in the narrow and crowded streets in central Copenhagen). So I stick to my 9-3 SS which suits me well – but looking very much forward to the coming 9-3 or , even better, 9-2 (hope it will be as clean as the 9-XBH). Better sizes for me – and, not at least, the ecological aspect and efficiency ( I am sure we will see large improvements coming from Saab in those models! ๐Ÿ™‚ ) will suit my philosophy and style of living much better.

  12. Steven – to your nitpick … “capable” is the perfect understatement absolutely consistent with Saab’s quirky self. But then advertising perfection is generally in the eye of the beholder! – Also I must agree with Keep Austin regarding the 100K warranty.

  13. That is amazing copy-writing, and the simple typoig aphy makes more and more sense! Where all others are sticking to Helvetica, Saab is still using Gill Sans. It is a great typeface for big headlines, great choice.

    Are these ads done (or at least art-directed) at Stockholm Design Lab, or are the US-specific ads made by an agency in the US?

    BTW, I also think the style of writing and the core of the message sent be these ads reminds a bit of some of the my to the SU ad-competition ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Best Saab ad in years! I have two Saabs, but after reading this i realize I need at least one more… ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Great ad!
    I absolutely love the way Saab has kept the lay out and overall apperance of their ads, posters and, most importantly their brochures more or less the same for more than a decade now. They still feel very modern and easytoreadnobulldowntothepoint attractive.
    Did you ever have a look in a Audi brochure? (yeah, shut up. It was a friends.) An absolute headache!

  16. Now this is advertising! Intelligent and humble – as we current and future Saab-drivers generally are! ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. I do like this ad.
    I like the fact it is understated …no hyperbolea just clear facts, simply presented.
    For “Capable” read “Adequate”
    Rolls Royce used to use this to describe their top speed.
    Everyone else knew it meant “bloody quick” because that’s what a refined brand does. This Kind of writing gets people curious, hopefully enough to end up at a dealership and see how truly brilliant the product really is.

    • “Capable” and “adequate” fall into the same category: mushy, indistinct writing. Positive adjectives are always better.

  18. With those 3 adds and the 4th (hopefully) about the current cars Saab are really doing the story-telling about brand, heritage, cars that were so needed. Very Saab, very temporary and at the same time insisting in coherence.
    Superior! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Very good copywriting and content. Exactly the right tone of voice, too, and perfectly connecting to the past as well as giving a hint of the future. I could have written it myself. Only bit of nitpicking: too bad about twice ‘after that’ in the two final sentences. There are dictionaries of synonyms…


    • … but on the other hand; its for Americans… They have, periodically, been pretty used to presidents (not the current one!) with an intellectual level allowing one of them – in a historical speech – to use the term; “those folks” in two following sentences; first about “criminal terrorists” and thereafter about “heroic firemen”… (or maybe the other way around) ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • @ Troels, Was that insult of the American people needed? I still find it amazing how the European people (you know, “those folks”) here always slam America yet I never see any cases of the other way around. I’m surprised at that comment from someone I usually agree with.

        and our current one is no better, FYI,… however, we do not speak of politics here and we’d all benefit if we keep it that way.

        • please let me know if I missed the tongue and cheek humor…. maybe my coffee has not kicked in enough yet

          • Sorry!
            Absolute no intention to insult American people.
            I know and like many Americans and would never seriously criticize a whole people. I fell for the temptation to make a joke regarding bad language in the sense of using the exact same words in two following sentences. And, to be honest, the worst example I have heard was from Bush in his most historical speech, under tragic circumstances. (Meaning the possible error in the Saab-text was very minor, compared)
            I apologize for a not very tasteful joke!

          • @ troels

            All is well……You know that there are people who from time to time will toss out a fireball as I took yours to be. I never expected that from you thats why it caught me kinda off guard. Maybe I was just too cranky from all the snow shoveling I did yesterday with 15+ inches that fell.

            Let’s have a beer and call it a day.

  20. PS: I also like the intro lines in those ads: ‘Something funny happened on the way to…’, ‘A cold day in hell…’, nothing to do with cars and yet instantly recognizable to Americans, therefore attracting immediate attention en probably getting high retention scores. Highly creative and effective copwriting by McCann Erikson. Compliments are in order.


    • Am I the only one a bit concerned with what qualifies as a ‘cold day in hell’?

      As far as I know, the cultural reference is snowballs, which is something you can make just below freezing. In Sweden it gets considerably colder, so to me, the ad is actually downplaying Saab’s abilities. ๐Ÿ˜‰

      But nice ads. I wish Saab had an archive of old ads where we could browse high resolution copies of every ad they’ve run in major media. I do not see why they feel they need to keep their ads a big secret.

  21. Finally!
    Corporate storytelling! fantastic!
    Telling the tales of the company.
    Good we are back on aircraft and rally racing again
    This can only mean that Saab management has decided to live through the core values of Saab.
    We at witnesing a paradigm shift!

  22. There are a few more coming within the Saab story string. They only get better. There is one you have yet to see that I really like.

    We Americans really need a straight forward message. This strikes right to the points.

    Remember the Joneses? We will not be like them we are independant thinkers.

    • Ah….the Joneses! I like the sound of that. That is one reason I really preferr
      ed the 9-3 to the BMW 3-series when I was shopping for my last new car in 2000. (For those not familiar with this…the American phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” means the sense of having to keep buying what all your trendy friends are buying in order to fit in with your social circle…in other words, the antithesis of Saab spirit!)

  23. I have the Saab app on my IPhone and iPad and received a message on ea h device telling me they have updated the sithe with new content. I would have been super impressed had the message not come thru at 4am but its nice to see Saab being proactive.

    Like the print ad too.

  24. Small nit: Spot visuals, like the ones on the right side of this ad, can increase readership, especially when they’re accompanied by a caption that contains some real information.

    • It’s a bottom-half spread that bleeds across the gutter so, visually, it’s one unit. I think it’s okay the way it is.


  25. Next ad should be like this. I give this on to Saab for free!

    Car & Driver has given their 10 best design awards.
    They like our 9-5 fighter aircraft altimeter style speedometer as well as our sister company Spykers gearshift mechanism.
    Come to our dealers and find out more aerospace and rally/racing features on our whole range of brand new Saabs.
    We used to say it was the most intelligent car built. See for yourself.
    No pressure- or racing suits needed for your test mission.
    We supply a different experience.

    • Yep…
      I think this latest WSJ ad is indeed a better effort . But needs to be supplemented by the kinds of things Jorgen notes (now, it could be argued that the campaign needs to be seen whole…and only at the last ad will it all make sense with any individual gaps ultimately filled…we’ll see).

      My specific problem with the text of the latest WSJ ad is that while we drum up History …Rally wins in the 60/70s, etc…..there is really ZERO in respect of recent achievements…”What have you done for me lately…” stuff. This is 2011. Thank God for Car and Driver and as small a point as it is….we need to take anything we can get that puts us in a ‘Top 10’ list and SHOUT about it. The fact that our latest Saabs are “our most technologically advanced ever…” isn’t bringing anything to the table.

      I stand behind my initial position on the “Not German” ad. It’s not funny in the least and hardly clever (I’ve floated it some of my agemates who don’t share my Religion and they thought it was Stupid). Unless we’re trying to foster some kind of antediluvian Jack Boots and Goose Step associations…but is that kind of ‘Allo, Allo’ stuff really going to resonate with our target modern American driver (the ones who happily buy from Munich…and Stuttgart)? Who’s our intended audience….World War II Vets still harbouring a grudge? How about our followup Ad (at Lexus and Infinity owners)….with a cross superimposed upon a Rising Sun? (but of course…. nudge, nudge, wink, wink…no disrespect intended).

      • At the small risk of getting into politics, I think you’re over-reacting against the “Not Gernan” ad. Years ago, we knew plenty of people who wouldn’t buy Gernan because of the Holocaust, and that despite the fact that modern Germany was perhaps the least anti-semitic major country in Europe (and the most supportive of Israel), Guess what? Several of them now have Mercs and Beamers because they’re status symbols. So much for their principles, right or wrong.

        But that reason for not buying German never entered my (Jewish) mind until you raised it in your post. I read the ad the way it was intended, that Saab was the European alternative to Audi, Merc, VW, BMW, because it unique and doesn’t run with the crowd. Goose Step allusions, good lord; Germany today is more about Green Parties and smug consumerism. And I think that the success that Japanese cars have had in the US demonstrates that WWII is the furthest thing from the mind of the American car buyer.

          • On the drive to work today, a Volvo spotcame on radio. Volvo went on mentioning thier competition… they said everyone BUT Saab..

            We really need to change that!

          • The German Card that we should be playing is the one handed us by DEKRA.
            Posted 12 April 2010 – 12:02 PM
            Top brands in Germany’s DEKRA car reliability survey
            Date of publication: 2010-04-08 10:31:21

            “Accordingly, these are the top-5 brands for vehicle reliability according to the DEKRA figures:
            1. Saab
            2. Audi
            3. Subaru
            4. Porsche
            5. Mitsubishi”

            I find it inconceivable that an expensive ad agency would miss this one. Presumably we have limited resources and have to be judicious in each and every advertising dollar spent (as they say…you’ve got one shot…and I prefer to hold back until I see the whites of eyes when we’re low on artillery).
            One of the great myths circulated here in North America (elsewhere for sure) is that Saab is unreliable compared to the usual suspects . Instead of wrapping ourselves in flags of what we’re not I’d rather we be a bit more aggressive and confident in what we are (and should be…).

            [I will self-censor myself and promise not comment any more about that ad]

          • @ NTP: I think I actually mailed a .jpg of the original Dekra table (in German, even) to Swade a couple of weeks ago. Maybe it could be reproduced here? Because I think you are right it should be used in some way or another.

            As far as the NG (Nicht German) ad is concerned, I am with hughw, mostly. I think it works well as a one-off for the intended targets and within the chosen publication. I wouldn’t choose this approach for a long-running campaign, though. It gets boring after a while.


          • Testing…just checking if all my comments ‘await moderation’ or only the ones with links in them…..

          • Someone said once that when Pepsi and Coca-Cola go head to head, people forget all about the other competitors. Many believe those two companies are the only ones producing soft drinks…

            If the Germans start gunning back, then hopefully people will forget about the other brands. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • That Mercedes response ad is Brilliant, Gerrit! Whoever is orchestrating their marketing/ad campaigns is on The Ball. Funny, Powerful, Playful…and that end point (so to speak)…

            I’d add that In our Anti Consumerist/Corporate Zeal we’ve gone to the World’s Largest Ad Agency. Never mind using the Wall Street Journal as our Blowhorn.

            Delicious Irony? Or should we Squirm…

            [OK… I promised to shut up ๐Ÿ™‚ ].

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