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Imus, Vonnegut & Bigelow Tea: A Saab Story

Posted By Robert Gorell On April 13, 2007 @ 4:09 am In Advertising,Branding and Advertising Rants | 4 Comments

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. | 1922 - 3007 [1]I assumed it would be a big deal when Kurt Vonnegut died. Still, I don’t think he’d have shared my sentiment.

“People have to talk about something just to keep their voice boxes in working order, so they’ll have good voice boxes in case there’s ever anything really meaningful to say.” -Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle (1963)

And there I was, watching the gravity-shifting echo-chamber that is cable news, offering one-way smirks to people with good dentists as they charted fresh, new angles on a story about a media veteran with a foul mouth and a microphone who sold his voice box to people who were, it turns out, surprised to discover that this man was himself, indeed, nappy-headed.

Okay, fine. So it goes. Let’s give the nappy-headed loudmouth the stage over the nappy-headed poet. Besides, this was no time to think of dead poets; a real salesman had lost his career in full, high-definition glory.

What now with all this tea!?

Sponsors that pulled out of Imus’ show included American Express Co., Sprint Nextel Corp., Staples Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. and General Motors Corp. Imus made a point [2] Thursday to thank [2] one sponsor, Bigelow Tea [2], for sticking by him.

Then, whatever the celestial reasonings, I thought about Breakfast of Champions (or maybe it was the introduction to Slaughterhouse Five) where Kurt tells of his misadventures as the owner/manager of a Saab dealership in Cape Cod. It was a fitting job at the time; not even he could make this stuff up.

There I was, my attention once again back to Scarborough Country, just in time for commercials. As though Vonnegut’s ghost were the media buyer… That damn Saab commercial where it zooms-off along a rain-slicked runway, the tracking shot fading out moments before, presumably, its flux capacitor kicks in. Back to the future; to a place when a Saab could be a Saab…


Being a superficial marketing-type, I needed to know what Saab’s homepage [3] had to tell me that the commercial couldn’t quite say to my face.

Hmm… Seems they don’t really believe in words. But what if Vonnegut were Saab’s copywriter? [4]

The Saab back then was a far cry [5] from the sleek, powerful, four-stroke Yuppie uniform it is today. It was the wet dream, if you like, of engineers in an airplane factory who had never made a car before. “Wet dream,” did I say? Get a load of this: There was a ring on the dashboard, connected to a chain running over pulleys in the engine compartment. Pull on it, and at the far end it would raise a sort of window shade on a spring-loaded roller behind the front grill. That was to keep the engine warm while you went off somewhere. So, when you came back, if you hadn’t stayed away too long, the engine would start right up again.

Now I know why I never liked Saab’s revisionist nostalgia campaign. Like Don Imus giving the usual some-of-my-best-friends-are-blank song ‘n’ dance in front of a national audience of folks trying to muster the energy to care, this “yuppie canoe”-turned-rocket-ship had made itself seem so cheap, so contrived, kinda… nappy.

“So it goes.” -Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

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URL to article: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2007/04/13/imus-vonnegut-bigelow-tea-a-saab-story/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.vonnegut.com/

[2] Imus made a point: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070413/ap_on_en_mu/imus_protests

[3] Saab’s homepage: http://www.saabusa.com/saabjsp/93s/index.jsp

[4] what if Vonnegut were Saab’s copywriter?: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/1726/

[5] a far cry: http://www.37signals.com/svn/archives2/saab_born_from_jets_so.php

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