GM Moves Chevy to McCann, Starts Caddy Review

Well, it was probably the worst kept secret around.

And General Motors finally confirmed it, announcing late in the day today (March 14) it was consolidating Chevrolet’s global account at IPG’s McCann Worldwide. Strangely, GM distributed the statement, which was attributed to McCann.

Whatever.

The bottom line is this: Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners is out.

Goodby won the Chevy account in 2010 without a review shortly after the arrival of Joel Ewanick as CMO. Ewanick had worked with Goodby during his years heading Porsche marketing and also for a while at Hyundai.

Shortly before Ewanick was forced out last year, GM pushed Goodby into that silly 50-50 venture with McCann to handle Chevy, called Commonwealth. I predicted it was a bad idea to try to get 2 holding companies to work together.

http://autoadopolis.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/is-chevys-global-creative-solution-a-good-idea/

GM should have known better since it had tried it before on the media side… and it flopped.

Most AutoAdOpolis readers know I have not been a big fan of most of Goodby’s work. I don’t put all the blame on the agency because it has done some great work for other clients.

The smoke signals for Goodby’s demise really started billowing late last year when GM’s Alan Batey, interim CMO, (pictured below) moved oversight of the crucial Chevy Silverado launch to Publicis’ Leo Burnett.

aLANBatey

Burnett  also has GMC and Buick and one could certainly argue that work for those two brands hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire.

So one has to wonder why Batey chose to only fiddle with the agencies for only 2 of 4 GM US vehicle brands, essentially giving Burnett a free pass.

But even more curious is Batey’s timing.

After all, Tim Mahoney will start April 1 as GM’s newly-hired global CMO for Chevrolet. Mahoney, on vacation this month after leaving VW of America, will also be global GM marketing operations leader, indicating he’ll also oversee other car brands. He’ll report to Batey.

GM has been mum on whether Batey, also VP of sales and service in the US, will remain interim global CMO. So Mahoney could well be Batey’s successor. So, if Batey wanted to make some big moves and undo most of what Ewanick did, he knew he had to hurry.

But why not wait until Mahoney arrives?

Batey’s marketing power plays would have had to have been okayed from the top, since Batey reports to GM Chairman-CEO Dan Akerson.

This entire mess doesn’t portray GM in a very positive light.

What the hell are you guys thinking?

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On Twitter @jhal2001

Are Chevy Ads Finding New Roads?

Chevrolet recently introduced its new “Find New Roads” advertising tag with a splashy :90 TV commercial that broke during the Grammy Awards. The montage of cars, each with different music, is visually interesting. In case you missed it, here’s the spot from Chevy’s ad agency Commonwealth, a 50-50 joint venture of IPG’s McCann Erickson Worldwide and Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

It’s good to see that General Motors’ biggest brand included the sexy Corvette in the commercial. But why are there no crossovers or pickups? Those segments are certainly a big part of the brand’s bread and butter these days. The scenes in the spot are pretty nifty. The robo dog is cool and who doesn’t like deer? The  first part of the Sonic section looks very much like a spot for retailer Target, another Grammy broadcast sponsor.

But the whole thing somehow doesn’t gel as one; doesn’t come together. Who is finding new roads? Where are the new roads?

What probably bothers me most is the boastful line “with the best lineup of vehicles ever….”

Memo to Chevy: Who said you have the best lineup ever? It’s better to use third-party ratings than pound on your chest with that blanket statement. Why? Because there’s plenty of skeptics out there and people are more likely to trust third party sources. Hopefully Chevy will have some testimonial ads touting its “best lineup” ever.

And say goodbye to Tim Allen as the voice of Chevy advertising. He was thrown out with the “Chevy Runs Deep” ad tag that lived for a little over two years, created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. That’s OK, you can still hear the actor narrating ads for Campbell’s Soup. You’re now hearing John Cusack doing Chevrolet ad voice overs.

The second spot out there with the “Find New Roads” ad tag is for the 2013 Chevy Traverse.

Check out how the ad shows seating for 8, whether they are real or imaginary

Sorry, Chevy and Commonwealth, but this ad is awful close to Kia’s 2010 Super Bowl commercial for the Sorento, showing the critters from kids’  popular cable TV show Yo Gabba Gabba come to life

It certainly looks like Chevrolet and Commonwealth stole the idea from Kia and their ad agency DavidandGoliath. These sort of coincidences happen from time to time in this business. There was one season in the ’90s when 2 or 3 different car brands featured grocery store parking lots and shopping carts in their commercials.

The longer you’ve been in this business, the more examples of these coincidences you see. Here’s another one, this time it’s Kia, which in recent weeks broke a national spot for the 2014 Sorento. Check out how Kia touted the crossover’s power-folding mirrors and programmable power lift gate in a tight parking space

Of course lots of people would never jam their $23,000-to$33,000 new vehicle into such a tight spot. This Big Idea isn’t so fresh. Check out this commercial from WPP’s JWT (now TeamDetroit) for the 2000-model Ford Focus

And so it goes. If you’ve got any to add, please leave a comment and thanks for taking the time to read AutoAdOpolis.

MAKING TRACKS: General Motors has shifted Craig Bierley from ad director for Buick GMC to the same post at Cadillac. Craig, a Michigan native, has been with GM for 22-plus years, starting there as a financial analyst. He succeeds Molly Peck, who was moved last fall from the Caddy post to USA ad director of Chevrolet. The merry-go-round continues over there.

Follow me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Forbes.com

and on Twitter @jhal2001

Auto Brands Tease the Big Game

It’s more than a week before the Super Bowl and the carmakers advertising in the Super Bowl are rolling out their teasers and actual commercials. Smartly, the brands are upping their exposure  in social media.

Volkswagen of America just released this 1:30 gem teaser it calls “Get Happy,” starring Jamaican regaee legend Jimmy Cliff

 

Love the crying “cat lady” and the whole spot just makes you smile. VW is very smart to push its own web site, vw.com, where it is offering downloads of this exclusive track and directing viewers to #GetHappy. Kudos to Deutsch Los Angeles.

Of course the teaser isn’t necessarily what VW will air in the game on Sunday, Feb. 3. VW fooled us all last year with a whacky teaser of dogs barking the “Star Wars” theme, then in the game ran a Beetle spot of a dog getting in shape so it could chase the car. I do know VW will air a brand spot in the Big Game.

Here it is

I think I prefer the teaser.

“You can be a little bit crazier with the teasers,” CMO and chief product officer Tim Mahoney, told me. And since he’s arrived at VW in spring 2011 he said he and his team has learned that “you can stretch the conversation” about your brand when you release your Super Bowl teaser earlier rather than later. In 2011, VW got several million views for “The Force” Super Bowl spot on YouTube less than a week before the Big Game.

The VW brand has advertised in the Super Bowl since 2010, when it returned after a 9-year hiatus.

Mercedes-Benz is getting a lot of attention for its pre-Super Bowl video for the all-new CLA starring Kate Upton. Uploaded on YouTube on Jan. 21,  the 1:30  attracted an impressive 3 million views by the middle of the day Jan. 24. The commercial, from Merkley + Partners in New York City, is a spoof of a scene from the 1967 prison drama “Cool Hand Luke,” in which a sexy young thing teases the chain-gang guys with a suggestive car wash. Here’s Mercedes’ take

This seems unusual for Mercedes-Benz, but hey, sex sells, right. R&B star Usher will also be in the final ad airing in the fourth quarter.

Mercedes also went big for an earlier teaser too, buying the rights to the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” in this video posted just a few days ago on Jan. 19

Meantime, two car brands- Audi and Lincoln- are letting consumers get involved in decisions for their Big Game commercials.

Starting Jan. 25 at midnight for 24 hours, Audi will have people pick one of 3 endings for a :60 Super Bowl commercial. The story line for the 2013 Audi S6 spot is a teen boy at his prom. Somehow that doesn’t sounds very prom-ising.

This still photo from the spot is about all that’s out there now from Audi

AudiTeaser13SuperBowlDoesn’t give us  much to go on, eh? Should make for a wild and crazy week for Audi’s ad agency, Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco as they edit the most popular ending into the commercial.

Here’s Audi’s final cut 

Ford Motor Co.’s lux Lincoln brand asked Tweeters in December to help it write the Big Game spot for the new MKZ sedan. Lincoln teamed with Jimmy Fallon in videos, in social media, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LincolnMotorCo and and via the site steerthescript.com.

On Saturday, Jan. 19 Lincoln released a 1:15 video of sneak peeks of the spot

Hmmm- tortoises, a motorcycle gang, llamas and a UFO? That’s certainly an interesting combo, eh? But only a disappointing 1,506 views on YouTube by this afternoon, Jan. 24.

Lest we forget, Lincoln said back in early December it had signed a deal with with NFL rushing leader and three-time Super Bowl champ Emmitt Smith as a “brand ambassador” for the MKZ launch. So I fully expect to see him in the final cut on Game Day. HudsonRouge in Manhattan is Lincoln’s ad agency.

Lincoln is NOT really a Super Bowl freshman. Lincoln was an advertiser in the Big Game in the mid-90s. And it had an ad buy for the 2005 Super Bowl for the Mark LT pickup truck. But Lincoln pulled out in the eleventh hour after advocacy groups complained it made light of the Catholic Church’s sex scandals. The spot showed a clergyman tempted by the keys to the 2006 pickup left on the collection plate. Instead, Ford used the ad slot during the game for an existing Mustang convertible spot.

The Toyota brand said weeks ago TV actress Kaley Cuoco would star in its Super Bowl spot. Here she is this :36 teaser, dubbed “I Wish,” arrived Jan. 23 on YouTube with the “Big Bang Theory” star and the RAV4

I don’t think this is going to get much attention for Toyota unless the actual :60 commercial airing in the first quarter from Saatchi & Saatchi in Los Angeles really dials things up. The look of this is too similar to the one the ad agency did for the recent launch of the new Toyota Avalon

You just get the idea they wanted to use this cool camera technique. Toyota also turned to social media to woo people for a chance to be in the commercial on game day. And Toyota is a sponsor of the post-game show.

Toyota finally released the in-game commercial

Hyundai still hasn’t officially released its ads or teasers, although I and other members of the media have seen the rough cuts . (You can check out my earlier blog about Hyundai’s Super Bowl ad plans here

http://autoadopolis.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/hyundais-super-bowl-ads-better-than-2012/

This is my favorite among Hyundai’s two in-game spots, called “Stuck” for the Sonata Turbo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SohqIBOb03k

Here’s the other in-game spot, just released today, called “Team”

Chrysler Group is again keeping a lid on specifics about its ad plans for Super Bowl. But you can pretty much count on something over the top.

Kia, readying its fourth year as a Super Bowl advertiser, seems late to the teaser party. But word is out it bought a :30 slot in the third quarter for the Forte and a minute-long slot in the fourth for the Sorento. DavidandGoliath, Los Angeles, handles. Here’s the teaser, which was released AFTER I originally posted

Car brands that aren’t returning this year are Chevrolet, Honda and Acura.

It’s a shame they’ll miss the big hoopla.

MAKING TRACKS: Ian Marlowe quietly shifted gears on auto accounts last year from group account director on Audi at Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco to global brand director at TBW on Infiniti in all  markets. Did former Audi of America Prez Johan de Nysschen, now president of Infiniti globally, cherry pick Marlowe?

Follow me, Jean Halliday, on Forbes.com, LinkedIn, Facebook

On Twitter @jhal2001

Hyundai’s Super Bowl Ads Better Than 2012

Hyundai Motor America took the wraps off its commercials for this year’s Super Bowl, the automaker’s sixth straight year as an advertiser in the Big Game.

The spots, at the time of writing, were still in rough cut and not available to post. (will add as soon as possible). But they should arrive today on You Tube, Facebook and other social mediums. Hyundai’s VP-marketing Steve Shannon told me yesterday the automaker is blasting the new ads out about 5 days earlier than last year ahead of Game Day in hopes of getting a bigger lift in online traffic and buzz.

SteveShannonIn the good old days before high-speed internet access reached the masses, Super Bowl viewers would have to wait until game day to first eye ball the commercials.

Shannon told me the spots have been pre-tested via focus groups with people screened for liking the Super Bowl and its ads.

I guess Hyundai and its ad agency Innocean USA in Huntington Beach, passed the test because the commercials are coming this week, along with an extra surprise Friday about a custom-written song in one of the spots from a psychedelic alternative rock band. Shannon said that on Jan. 25  Hyundai will announce the name of the band, which doesn’t do a lot of commercial work. The new song for Hyundai will be a bonus track on the band’s upcoming new album. And Hyundai will offer 100,000 free downloads of the song via iTunes on hyundai.com the same day the new album debuts.

That ought to stir some more buzz- at least with the folks who know and like this band.

The band members have several cameos in Hyundai’s only :60 spot. It’s for the new 7-passenger Sante Fe and airs in the slot before the kick-off. The name of the commercial, “Epic Play Date,” says it all. A montage, with just a splash of animation, shows a family moving from a pancake breakfast at home to a riotous day of fun. A saber-tooth tiger comes to life in a wild life museum,  ostriches chase the family at a petting zoo and there’s a game of outdoor bowling, with one of the sons inside a giant, blow-up bowling ball.

Actor Jeff Bridges does voice over for all the spots, which carry the two-year-old tag “New Thinking. New Possibilities.”

Hyundai has a pair of new :30s breaking IN the game.

The one in the first quarter, dubbed “Team,”is also for the launch of longer-wheel-based Sante Fe. A bullied young boy rounds up his dream team of friends to seek revenge in a football game. The song “Bang Your Head,” from Quiet Riot, plays through the spot as the boy’s Mom picks up his posse in the crossover suv. There’s no question at the end who will win the football game. The dream team of 6 kids in the Sante Fe are over-the-top. Among them: red-headed twins pumping serious iron and a bear wrestler. This spot has a nice football link, but not a real big finish.

In the second quarter, Hyundai has a another :30, called “Stuck” for the Sonata Turbo sedan. Because of the car’s zippy engine, the couple inside can easily pass a variety of vehicles they find offensive, including a hefty guy on a motor bike showing part of his derriere and animal-print panties, a tanker truck oozing some suspicious-looking green goop and big dogs slobbering out of an RV onto the Sonata’s windshield. The kicker at the end is delivered by actor Jeff  Bridges: “Trust us. It’s better to be in front.”

Hyundai’s fourth commercial is for the zippy Genesis R-Spec, a :30 that will also air in the pre-game broadcast. Named “Excited,” it shows the 8-speed car screaming around a race track as sportscaster Gus Johnson is heard in the background doing the play-by-play. On screen notices tell us how this 429-HP car bests a BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche in horsepower and/or 0-60.

Those stats are likely to shock fans of those German brands, but you can’t blame Hyundai for wanting to get the word out to 100-plus-million viewers. Still, this is not the place for bragging. Not to worry. This car-on-track spot isn’t interesting enough to cause a ruckus.

Hyundai’s fifth commercial isn’t new, it broke last fall as part of the launch of the smaller, 5-passenger Sante Fe. This this :30 spot, called “Drive In,” during the pre-game broadcast, was under the umbrella theme “Don’t Tell” (Mom or Dad) because each parent is doing exciting things with the kids without the other spouse. In case you haven’t seen it

I like the “Don’t Tell” series and gave it a nod in my Year In Review post.

“Stuck” for the Sonata Turbo should get plenty of laughs, and along with “Epic Play Date” for the Sante Fe are the best in my book from Hyundai’s game-day offerings this year. I predict the two will rank higher than Hyundai’s ads in last year’s Super Bowl, when the “Cheetah” spot for the Veloster Turbo ranked 23 by AdMeter. That was not the lowest-ranked car ad in the 2012 game, mind you. That “honor,” at Number 54, went to Team One USA and the Lexus GS ad it created.

We’ll just gave have to wait to see how all these spots perform after all Super Bowl viewers see them.

MAKING TRACKS: Sad to say Andy Prakken left Team Detroit, where he had been exec VP-chief media officer for 8 years, overseeing media planning and buying, brand content development and analytics operations for Ford in the US and the rest of the world. Andy worked on the Ford account since at least 1991, when he was a media director at J. Walter Thompson, one of Team Detroit’s predecessors.

Hmm, Andy’s departure coincides with the Team Detroit’s hiring of Betsy Lazar to his old job. My take is Andy either did not want to take a back seat to Lazar, who left General Motors after 20 years in 2009 to become VP-global media of Kellogg Co., or he got in sideways with his new boss at Team Detroit, Mark LaNeve, another GM grad who worked closely with Betsy. Not to worry. Someone will quickly swoop up Prakken.

Follow me, Jean Halliday,  on Forbes.com, LinkedIn, Facebook

And on Twitter @jhal2001

GM Poised to Hire Global Chevy Chief

General Motors is close to hiring a new global chief for Chevrolet who would oversee all its sales, service, advertising and brand management.

GM is said to be readying an offer to a global executive currently working in Europe outside the auto industry

That would be about right since GM CEO Dan Akerson himself is from outside the industry and doesn’t necessarily believe auto experience is mandatory for key jobs at the automaker.

Akerson has been criticized for moving execs without auto industry experience into key posts. Last fall, GM’s CEO tapped Bob Ferguson to the newly-created position of VP to head Cadillac globally, overseeing retail, marketing, brand management and advertising for the lux brand in all markets around the world.

Ferguson was a former AT&T executive and GM lobbyist, who now reports directly to Akerson.

The new Chevy and Cadillac global chiefs will replace a single global CMO at GM. Last year, Akerson moved Alan Batey to VP-US sales and service and interim global CMO after CMO Joel Ewanick was pushed out.

Ewanick’s hand-picked, right-hand man, Chris Perry, is the current global marketing chief for Chevrolet and was said to be a contender for the new global Chevy post that, like Ferguson at Cadillac, would also oversee sales and service.

GM’s moves to hire non-auto outsiders brings back the nightmare of the 1990s, when it brought in Ron Zarrella from Bausch & Lomb as its brand czar in North America, along with a slew of outsiders for brand managers of individual models. It wasn’t long before he was quickly promoted to president of North American operations. Under the marching orders of Board Chairman John Smale, another non-car guy, GM shifted to an ill-advised and clunky brand management system that wasted billions of dollars trying to create individual personalities for virtually all model , which were being designed by committee. It was a disaster of epic proportions. Zarrella resigned in late 2001, within months after GM hired Bob Lutz to succeed him. Zarrella amazingly admitted in a conference call with reporters before he left that he learned much about the car business in the several weeks he had spent with Lutz at GM. Mind you, this was the head of GM in North America confessing to on-the-job training !

GM doesn’t have time to train an industry newbie for the Chevy worldwide post. The brand is preparing to launch more than 20 vehicles around the world this year as it continues a push to grow globally. The new bowtie chief, whoever it is, needs to be able to immediately start swimming in the job, not jumping onto a learning curve and possibly sinking.

MAKING TRACKS: Abbey Berryman joins Carat USA as VP-director on the Chevrolet account from Vibrant Media, where she was senior sales manager. Berryman, a seasoned media maven, also worked on Chevy’s account as media director at Starcom, GM’s former media shop. Congrats!

MAKING TRACKS II: Colleen DeCourcy is moving to Widen+Kennedy in Portland as co-global executive creative director from Socialistic, the social media shop she started in 2010. The move brings DeCourcy back on the Chrysler account, among others. She worked on the automaker’s digital account when she was chief creative officer of Omnicom Group’s Organic.

You can find me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn, Forbes.com and Facebook.

On Twitter @jhal2001

2012 Car Ad Review

As the curtain opens this week on 2013, it’s time for AutoAdOpolis’ annual year in review. Which carmakers and ad agencies executed outstanding efforts, which had some decent doubles and triples and which were just plain so-so?

Let’s start with the good news.

Chrysler Group scored big with its launch work for the return of the new, modern Dodge Dart. Ad agency Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, really hit it over the fence with this commercial that also debuted the tag line “New Rules”

Not only is this spot clever and witty, the art direction really catches your eye. Plus, this ad actually gives viewers a real sense of the brand.

Chrysler also gets high marks for the commercial for Fiat USA, dubbed “Immigrants” from The Richards Group. The :60 spot, which broke in the summer, hilariously depicts the next-gen 500 arriving to our shores- the hard way.

Like the Dodge spot, this is fun to watch and should put a smile on your face. It’s a perfect way to convey the car’s Italian heritage, which wasn’t the case in 2011 when Chrysler partnered with Jennifer Lopez for Fiat ads- a total disconnect that looked more like a music video for her new song than a spot for the car.

Both the Dart and 500 spots spotlight music from popular artists, a tactic preferred by Chrysler Group CMO Olivier Francois to grab viewers’ attention. The song in the Dodge ad is “No Church in the Wild” by J-Z and Kanye. The Fiat commercial pushed the new “Sexy People” single from Pitbull featuring Arianna. In neither case do the songs overpower the commercials.

Speaking of smiling, how about Volkswagen of America’s brand blitz that bowed with the :30 spot called “Smiles,” showing people of all ages laughing. There are no cars in this brilliant commercial from Deutsch in Los Angeles. It really captures the essence of the brand with the line “it’s not the miles, you how you live them.” The spot directs viewers to the whyvw.com sites, where they can post stories about their VWs or learn more about the cars from other owners and from VW.

Quite a brave move for a car marketer to not show a car in an ad, so kudos to VW’s CMO and chief product officer Tim Mahoney and his right-hand man Kevin Mayer, VP-marketing.

One of the most memorable spots that didn’t show a car was Jeep’s award-winning 1994 commercial, dubbed “Snow Covered” from the now-defunct Bozell in Southfield, Michigan.

Audi of America, which has been one of the industry’s best and most consistent advertisers in terms of creative, hits it out of the park again early in 2012 with a spot called “Ahab” for its all-wheel-drive Quattro system. The commercial spoofs Herman Melville’s epic sea captain character in search of an elusive whale with a northern tow truck operator and his frustration with never “hooking” an Audi with Quattro stuck in the snow. A very smart and entertaining execution from Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco.

While we’re on Audi, the brand’s Super Bowl “Vampire” commercial for its LED headlights did the best among all the top 10 spots in the 2012 Big Game, ranking 7th for Most Liked, according to Nielsen consumer research the best showing for any carmaker. The commercial was certainly over the top and tapped into the nation’s current craze for vampires.

Audi also ranked highly in my 2011 review. 

It was good to see American Honda Motor Co. raising the creative bar for both its brands in the Super Bowl. The Honda CR-V commercial starred Matthew Broderick spoofing his role in the flick “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

The commercial was one of the best from RPA in Santa Monica for Honda in a long time and blew away the earlier launch work for the CR-V. The spot ranked 10th Most Liked among all Super Bowl ads by Nielsen research,.

The automaker’s first-ever Super Bowl commercial for Acura was also a hit. In the Big Game, a media outlet where advertisers need to go big or be invisible, Acura met the challenge with a funny spot for the NSX starring funny men and car nuts Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno. USA Today’s AdMeter, based on consumer voting for their favorite Super Bowl ad on Facebook in 2012, ranked Acura’s spot number 13 and Honda’s 16.

Unfortunately, Honda and Acura’s over-the-top Super Bowl commercials weren’t enough to keep their ad agencies, RPA and sibling rp&, both in Santa Monica, out of the hot seat. Both accounts recently went into review.

Toyota Motor USA’s Lexus brand also made some inroads into improving creative with the launch of the new 2013 ES and first ES Hybrid. One of the launch commercials, dubbed “Split World” grabbed your attention with special effects and a script that made sense. Bravo to Brian Smith, VP-marketing at Lexus and kudos to Team One

Sister brand Toyota still isn’t there yet. But Toyota’s “Real Owners. Real Stories” TV commercial for the Camry, with online video assets and accompanying web site is not only well done, but is getting tons of input. Toyota figured out how to tweak a year-old site for the Camry launch and took it up a few notches

When it comes to Ford Motor Co., its Ford brand has had some of the most consistent work in the category all year. The advertising from TeamDetroit in Dearborn is visually interesting, makes relevant points and is strategic without shoving people’s faces into it.

Take this launch commercial for the 2013 Fusion. Great way to bring to life the Big Idea of standing out from rivals, which disappear.

Let’s look at Hyundai Motor America. After a pretty decent run with some of the best ads in the industry, seems too many of Hyundai’s ads are getting a bit formulaic. The brand’s Super Bowl commercials, from Innocean Worldwide Americas in Huntington Beach, California, were nothing to write home about.

There are some signs of improvement with the September launch work for the 2013 Sante Fe, themed “Don’t Tell” mom or dad

Shows there are still signs of creative life at the ad agency and at Hyundai.

I’d like to recognize Cadillac as one of the most improved auto advertisers. After a less-than-stellar appearance in the 2012 Super Bowl, General Motors’ lux brand blew out of the gates with impressive summer launch work for the new ATS compact sedan. The work, from Fallon, Minneapolis, was themed “Cadillac ATS vs. The World,” showing how the car performs on some of the ing on and some of the planet’s wildest and most challenging roads. Cadillac smartly posted lots of behind-the-scenes videos on YouTube, as well as links on Facebook and elsewhere.

Keep it up! We’d like to see all of Cadillac’s sibling brands take it up a notch also. Although there were some break-out ads for Chevrolet last year, there simply haven’t been enough of them.

Note to GM and its ad chiefs: Please take some risks!

Looking forward to seeing more break-through work from all auto advertisers in this New Year.

MAKING TRACKS: Steve Rosenblum recently started as general manager of Publicis Kaplan Thaler in Manhattan, which handles the account for the Tri State Honda Dealers Association. Rosenblum had been consulting since leaving General Motors in late 2011 after 15 years in various ad and marketing positions.

Follow me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn and Facebook

and on Twitter @jhal2001

Honda’s US Ad Agency Pitch: Rigged??

American Honda Motor Co. has called a review for both its Honda and Acura brands in the USA, encompassing creative, media buying and planning.

The surprise isn’t that a review has been called. It’s that it has taken this long to happen.

Other than a few bright advertising stars in recent years, including the boffo Super Bowl commercials for both Honda and Acura in 2012, the work hasn’t exactly set the world on fire.

I don’t place all the blame on the incumbents: Honda’s longtime agency of record, RPA in Santa Monica, and rp&, its sister arm on Acura. The clients, after all, kept approving their work year in and year out. An example of the industry adage : a client getting the work it deserves. The incumbent agencies will defend their biggest accounts.

But it doesn’t look good for the home teams. There’s already some skeptics – not at the incumbents- grumbling that the review is a set-up. The skeptics posit that   giant Japanese ad agency Dentsu, which  handles Honda in its home market there, will manage to steer the account to its McGarryBowen agency network.

It’s never wise to discount the pull an agency has with the client at the mother ship. The marketing brass at the corporate offices of many a global car company are close to the execs at their shops in the mother land and they also, from time to time, like to flex their brass muscles to make sweeping worldwide moves.

Dentsu’s Tokyo office won a Cyber Lion in Cannes in June for the work it did for Honda in Japan. Think THAT doesn’t impress the mother ship?

This summer, Dentsu’s McGarryBowen office in London managed to win the pitch for Honda’s  pan-European launch of the CR-V, besting 5 other shops, including Wieden & Kennedy in the UK. The huge win was the agency’s first since parent Dentsu changed the name of its European offices from Dentsu to McGarryBowen earlier this year. Dentsu acquired the 6-year-old McGarryBown agency in 2008.

What other agencies have won at Cannes for Honda?

Well Wieden, natch, whose most memorable  Honda work in Europe has to be this UK spot called  “Cog,” which won a Gold Lion in Cannes in 2003

RPA’s last Cannes win for Honda? Anyone?

Other than this year’s Super Bowl commercials, one of my favorite Honda spots in recent years from RPA was for the Element in 2006, featuring that delightful crab named Gil, who later ended up with a big life all his own in social media

This work was perfect for the Element’s young target audience and cut through the clutter.

It’s never a good time for an agency review and is going to cause lots of stress for the folks at RPA and rp&, especially during the holidays. Best of luck!

MAKING TRACKS: Joel Ewanick lands at Fisker Automotive as the acting head of global marketing and sales, while the car company looks for a full-time replacement. Not surprised to see him land so quickly. He was pushed out of General Motors in the summer after a little over 2 years at the automaker as global CMO. Ewanick succeeds Richard Beattie, who retired from Fisker after a long career in the car business with stints at Jaguar, Mazda and Ford.

Find me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Forbes.com

On Twitter: @jhal2001