SAE ad campaign targets new, younger members


After more than a century of being humble, SAE International is starting to brag a bit by launching a “Meet SAE” ad campaign.

SAE hopes the campaign will help increase membership and participation in events and on technical committees. The target market for these ads includes people working on advanced mobility technologies such as electrification and autonomous driving.

“We’re trying to reach a broader audience, reach new people to become members and become interested in SAE … new, younger members, people who don’t associate us with electrification or zero emissions,” Frank Menchaca, chief growth officer for the nonprofit in Warrendale, Pa., told Automotive News. SAE’s goal is “to reach those new mobility professionals and younger people to say there’s real value in working with us.”

To accomplish that goal, SAE created four ads with a focus on technologies’ end consumers. SAE has about 130,000 members who are engineers, technical experts and volunteers in the automotive and aerospace industries. The ads highlight how its members’ efforts help provide mobility standards, research and educational support that impact people’s everyday lives.

A brand campaign, which Menchaca said is a “several hundred thousand dollar” investment, started with the four ads, which launched Nov. 1 and will run through 2022. SAE also plans to improve its Web page and create email and social media campaigns on LinkedIn.

The spots will air on Hulu, YouTube TV, Facebook and Instagram and also are on They will be served to people whose viewing choices on those channels include automotive or aerospace-related content.

One spot features expectant parents Pete and Abby, who can sleep soundly without worrying about their EV having enough battery charge to get them to the hospital when it’s time for their baby’s arrival, thanks to SAE’s work on establishing charging standards.

Another ad shows Skylar, an executive who boards a flight with peace of mind, giving credit to SAE’s aerospace safety guidelines. A third one highlights a girl named Violet, who grows from pushing her stuffed animal on a toy truck to become a young woman who benefits from SAE’s STEM educational programs and works as an engineer for an autonomous trucking company.

The fourth ad is an overview that introduces SAE and previews the three storylines.

SAE worked with boutique storytelling agency Vinegar Hill, in Pittsburgh, to produce the spots, but Menchaca proudly noted SAE wrote all the scripts in-house.

“The goal for us was to tell a character-driven story that would engage the audience and introduce these new characters,” David Altrogge, Vinegar Hill co-founder and director, told Automotive News. SAE “had done a lot of work before I was brought on.”

Together, Menchaca and a group of about 24 employees workshopped the basic story they wanted the campaign to tell and wrote the video scripts with the intent of humanizing SAE’s achievements.

“For millennials and Gen Z, it’s not the same as 20, 30, 40 years ago, when people became members of professional societies,” Menchaca said. “If we’re expecting people to become members, we need to tell our stories in a way that can be grasped by younger users.”

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