GM’s Advertising Is Disappointing

General Motors has had plenty of time to get its advertising house in order.
It’s been more than a year now since the General moved the account for its biggest brand, Chevrolet, to San Francisco’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partnership. And the one-year anniversary of Fallon, Minneapolis, taking over the Cadillac account, is coming up.
Overall, the work has been a huge disappointment, with only a few shining moments.
A shame really, since what better time for GM to really kick their advertising into high gear. GM should have used this time to clearly define each of its four brands, differentiate them and try to win back American buyers with compelling communications in all channels.
And a bigger shame when you also consider how much GM is spending. The automaker shelled out $542 million in U.S. measured media in the first quarter of this year, according to Kantar. That was enough to rank GM as the nation’s third largest advertiser. GM outspent the three other carmakers in the top 10 – #7 Chrysler; #8 Toyota and #9 Ford. GM outspent Ford by $243 million, Toyota by $235 million and Chrysler by $223 mil.
Arguably, at least two of those other automakers are getting more bang for their ad buck.
Now the grapevine is buzzing that Goodby Silverstein is in the hot seat with GM.
And Fallon had an exodus of its Detroit staffers on Caddy, with less than 10 of its original 22 staffers still standing a couple of months ago. Some of them split on their own; others were pushed.
Is there a Chevy or Cadillac ad that impressed any one of you and made you say “I wish we had done that?” I doubt it.
Even Joel Ewanick, GM’s VP of global marketing, seems frustrated.
During a recent interview on Autoline Detroit, Ewanick confessed he’s been hard on all of GM’s agencies, including Leo Burnett USA on Buick and GMC. (Ads for those two brands aren’t setting the world on fire either.) He said the reason he’s tough on them is he’s looking for consistency in the messaging.
While Joel handed kudos to Fallon for “nailing” Caddy’s new ad theme of “red-blooded luxury” in the first TV commercial early this year, he admitted “we had some trouble getting the (other) ads ready,” and those others were “just okay.”
Yeah, like this one- still airing- called “Raindrops” for the CTS-V. Narrator Laurence Fishburne tells us in the spot: “ When you build the world’s fastest production sedan, you consider everything. Like at 190 mph, even a simple raindrop becomes a powerful force. The Cadillac CTS-V, every detail built for speed and performance, right down to the windshield wipers. We don’t just make luxury cars, we make Cadillacs.”

Windshield wipers? Really? And this has exactly WHAT to do with Cadillac? You gotta wonder what they were thinking.
Actually Sherry Weitzman, national ad manager of Caddy, explains in this behind-the-scenes’ YouTube video that the big idea behind the ad is to show the brand’s attention to detail, craftsmanship and excellent engineering.

But is that what the commercial is really doing?  Not even close.
This YouTube video has only gotten 5,500 views in six months- not exactly a viral marketing miracle by any means.
Seems the Fallon guys just wanted to use their fancy camera. And the commercial is too similar to a Cadillac Super Bowl spot about 7 years ago showing a car driving through rain in slow motion.
At least Fallon didn’t propose an ad with sofas driving down the road, as Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York did during its short tenure on the account. BBH figured just because THEY thought of Cadillacs that way, the rest of the world still did. Hello!
Speaking of Fallon, Ewanick admitted “it’s never the agency’s fault, totally.” (A main truism of the business rarely verbalized by CMOs) So, he said, the client made people changes at both Fallon and inside GM.
Meanwhile, on Chevrolet, Ewanick gave Goodby a grade of “a solid C” overall. (Ouch!) Although he added “thanks to the Super Bowl, it was closer to a B.”
Were we watching the same Super Bowl with all those so-so commercials for Chevrolet?
At any rate, what compelling advertising have we seen for Chevrolet since then? Can’t think of any? Me neither.
Chevy should be in high gear by now with its new messaging and ad tag “Chevy Runs Deep.” But we’re simply not seeing it. That’s a damn shame. Let’s hope Goodby hits it out of the park for Chevrolet’s big centennial communications.
“You’ll see the work get better,” said Ewanick.
Let’s hope so.
* THIS POST IS ALSO MY CURRENT “AD RAP” IN CNW RESEARCH’S LATEST PULSE EDITION OF RETAIL AUTOMOTIVE SUMMARY.

MAKING TRACKS: MARTIN COLLINS has recently returned to Ford Motor Co. as a general sales manager after 4+ years at Group One Automotive, where he was most recently regional VP in the West. He’s moved back to Michigan to work in Dearborn. Marty started his career in 1985 at Ford where he held a variety of assignments within Ford Division including marketing, field operations, franchising, product development and strategy. He also worked internationally, where he was Northern Regional Manager for Ford of Britain for two years. Welcome back, Marty!

4 responses to “GM’s Advertising Is Disappointing

  1. Why continue to try to do it the “old” way? The whole process needs some real creative thinking..starting right at the top. Why not give more agencies the opportunity to pitch their creative solutions? Eliminate the quest for a large agency that can do it all. Remember that the best creative comes from all kinds of sources, not just large agencies. So Ewanick needs to reconfigure his approach and set up a different kind of department to source the best creative other wise his is stuck with the same results every year he is around. I am sure he thinks he has really broken out of the old ways of doing things but his results say he hasn’t. This really illustrates the “big company” problem, only dealing with what they have been conditioned to see and never getting out of the corporate treadmill. There is a great solution to this problem of horrible advertising for GM but they will never see it if they don’t or can’t change the way they do things.

  2. I saw this Chevy ad before “The Tree of Life” this past weekend and just thought “huh?”

    • The Camaro is their flagship car
      And to feature it for seconds PARKED in a driveway?
      Who is Chevy’s Ad Manager?
      Saw this played in the movie theater.
      BIG DISAPPOINTMENT.
      Winner of what? “Mofilm Tribeca”

  3. as someone who’s worked on chevy, they are a very tough client to get good communication through. they need to shake it up on their end if they want to see results. clock’s ticking…

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