Advertising: Saab's moment of Mama - Swedish motor dreamin' on such a winter's day

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The Independent Online

"California Dreamin' " by the Mamas and Papas has acquired several new layers since 1966. It's nostalgia about myth making with a measure of how-did-it-all-end Big Chill Mansonism in there too. And, of course, there's the sad way in which Mama Cass - always a big girl - was gathered. Re-do it with a sort of Nat King Cole solo male singer and you've got my attention - even for a Saab commercial.

Now we know what Saab's about. It's the Swedish car that isn't a Volvo. It's a bit smarter, more expensive and it's got more performance overtones in the brand. It's rather like Audi, targeted at people who don't want to be obvious. But that devout wish can actually yield some pretty obvious advertising themes. Saab has to work at not being tasteful and dreary. It has to destabilise you a bit.

So here's the fun-loving Saab 93 convertible and it's yellow - difficult colour; could be gash, could be inspired, but it's clearly not Saab-y - and it's in California. There's the California backdrop - sun, sand, palm trees. There's "California Dreamin' " on the music-over. And there are the happy owners trudging towards the stationary Saab. And they're putting its soft-top down remotely. It folds back and stows away in its well. All electronic slick and rather un-Saaby too.

But the couple have skis and woolly hats and the camera draws back to show a huge period California poster parked in an empty Aspen-ish snow-covered kind of ski-landscape. Now that whole scene's one for the media studies semiologists, of course - the notion that California is a media construct anyway - but the point is that Saab's back where it belongs: being sure-footed on deserted snowy roads with bright winter sunshine.

The girl looks like Michelle Pfeiffer - always a good move in my book. The car looks indulgent if not exactly pretty, and it costs from £23,895 on the road. The tag line is "Move your mind" - now does that mean change your mind about Saabiness or go with a different flow, or what exactly?

Torn between the east and west coasts as states of mind seems to be what the song's actually about - starting from cold places with churches ("stopped in to a church I passed along the way") where all the leaves are brown and the sky is grey.

And the preacher knows you're gonna stay, though if you didn't tell her you could leave today - escape from Maine to Malibu, from hellfire to hedonism. (They end on the "If I was in LA" line.) Precisely the dilemma of the Saab-driving Islington policy-wonk whose other life's a Porsche.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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