Tag Archives: car advertising

Ford Mimics Movie Ads

Auto advertising for seasonal clear-out sales are often boring. Many look the same.

The most common ingredients are running footage, someone talking VERY loudly and on-screen deals. Sometimes the marketers use existing commercials, but shorten them to add in info about the special deals.

The Ford brand thinks it has a better idea for its sales event this summer.

The Big Idea for Ford’s so-called “Summer Spectacular”event stemmed from the annual hot-weather blockbuster season for movies.

Each of the dozen new : 30 spots looks like a movie trailer. The first few seconds of all the spots are the same, showing the name “Ford,” but no cars. In addition, there’s four separate versions aimed at the Hispanic market, starring actor Cristian de la Fuente.

The brand believes the executions will not only break through the clutter, but boost the brand’s image and consideration, David Mondragon, general marketing manager for Ford and Lincoln, told me. Ford has increased favorable opinion on its brand by 20 points since 2008.

Ford’s ad agency, WPP Group’s TeamDetroit in Dearborn, tapped two Hollywood directors known for their prolific work on movie trailers. Kurt Mattila and Kyle Cooper, both of Prologue Films,have worked on movie trailers, including 2008’s “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk,”: respectively.

Here’s one of my favorites– for the C-Max Hybrid- directed by Cooper

The Focus spot directed by Mattila features a love-sick vampire trying to convince his girlfriend not to break up with him. Other movie genres include the Super Duty pickup as a super hero; surfing for the Fiesta and a spy-chase for the Mustang GT.

But when you’re creating so many unique spots, there’s bound to be one or two that just aren’t as compelling.

To me, that’s this one- for the Escape, called “The Heist”

While it does cover the bases for the Escape’s cool features and benefits, it just feels forced.

You can see all the spots here

 FYI, during a Google hangout Ford’s social media maven Scott Monty did with director Mattila, it leaked that Ford will be making a special product announcement at Comic-Con International’s Convention coming up later this week in San Diego.

 In the past, Ford has used TV star and narrator Mike Rowe for sales events. Mondragon told me Rowe “is a great asset for Ford,” having narrated the recently-ended Eco Boost Challenge ads, and still doing Ford service and and truck ads.

Earlier this year, the brand’s regional dealer advertising adopted the same ad creative process used by the national team. Instead of just TeamDetroit developing the creative, multiple WPP shops get Ford’s brief and submit ideas, Mondragon said.

The TV buy includes both national and regional, airing through August. Ford and its regional dealer ad associations are spending as much on media for this as for the national buy. The buy includes 90% of movie theaters in the US during July and August, says. Mondragon, who served CEO of Ford of Canada for more than three years,

To extend buzz and reach, the media plan is integrated with a movie-ticket giveaway on moviefone.com, called the Summer Spectacular Movie Ticket Giveaway plus $3 off movie rentals on Amazon.com.

Ford will soon be announcing four movie nights that will take over theaters to display vehicles, show the ads and offer a movie to hand-raisers. Dealers will also be inviting customers.

The automaker started the Ford Summer Spectacular Giveaway of 2013 models this month. To enter to win one of the 10 vehicles, visitors to fordeventgiveaway.com must view videos touting the product features and benefits. The site has a link to Facebook if visitors want to get their friends involved.

It’s encouraging to see Ford trying something different for a sales event.

Doing something different doesn’t always work, as evidenced by the Limited Engagement Spring Event work this year from Nissan’s Infiniti brand.

Check it out and you’ll see what I mean

At first glance doesn’t it seem to be a clothing commercial? It IS visually interesting, but it takes too long to get to the point. Sorry, TBWA/Chiat/Day- it’s off the mark.

One male viewer on YouTube posted this wise crack :“Guys, the takeaway from this commercial is: Drive an Infiniti and the ladies’ clothes will just fall right off “

Clearly, that wasn’t what Infiniti was going for.

 MAKING TRACKS: Congrats to David Murphy, who is moving to Michigan to become president-USA of WPP’s TeamDetroit in Dearborn on August 1. davidMurphyTeamDetroit

Murphy has worked on car accounts over his career, including Lincoln, Jaguar, Land Rover and Toyota.

Follow me, Jean Halliday on LinkedIn and Facebook.  On Twitter @jhal2001

Mazda’s Game Changer?

Mazda North American Operations has had a dicey time elbowing for share of voice against much bigger players in the car business. Russell Wager, who joined Mazda last fall as VP of US marketing, admits there were months, like November and January, when the company didn’t advertise on US television.

RussellWagerMazda“It’s okay for us to be the little guy,” Wager said.

But like Davis vs. Goliath, Mazda has a new attitude – and a new strategy – to boost its presence not only on TV, but also in search and digital, as well as high-profile places like Times Square and a promotional tie-in with an upcoming movie.

Wager compared Mazda to MLB’s Oakland A’s, which ranked last out of 30 teams for payroll costs, but still finished 4th overall. He declined to reveal specifics of Mazda’s ad budget.

Mazda spends about $280 million a year on ads and media, well below the major car brands.

Mazda is kicking off its biggest ad campaign in 13 years in May. Themed “Game Changers,” ads will highlight pioneers of the past who figured out a way to excel in their areas of expertise. You know, like Mazda.

The first work features Olympian Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized high jumping with his new “back-first” technique that won him a Gold Medal in 1968.

MazdaFosburyPrintAd

“We are going to look at game changers- people who used courage to defy conventional wisdom,” said Harvey Marco, chief creative officer of Garage Team Mazda, the brand’s ad agency since 2010. He said other big names featured in the ads will be Mary Quaint, the mini skirt inventor, and Laird Hamilton, the big-wave surfer who dreamed up tow-in surfing, which involves a jet ski pulling the skier into monstrous curls.

There will be plenty of people who never heard of  these folks. But that’s okay since the Big Idea should overcome that.

Although the campaign breaks for the launch of the 2014 Mazda6 sedan, the new umbrella theme will spread to all models, all branding, in all messaging, including events, regional dealer advertising and sales offers.

That approach differs from how Mazda did things in the past and the uniform ad platform “will make our (ad) fund go further,” says Wager. Mazda is boosting its digital and search spending by 40% this year from 2012. Wager says the brand will reduce its reliance on TV. Although broadcast will account for the biggest chunk of the overall ad spend, at 65%, Mazda will be on television all year. Although digital will comprise 25% of all spending, the undisclosed total is 40% more than 2012 (and includes search). Print and out-of-home ads account for the remaining 10% of the budget.

Look for Mazda to takeover Yahoo’s home page with jumper Fosbury, carrying the headline “This is how he changed the game. This is how we changed the game.” (with the new Mazda6).

And from now on, Mazda ads will show only red vehicles “so they  pop off the page,” Marco said.

Mazda’s new consumer research, done over the past 5 months, and new analytics approach, will boost retail sales and reach, Wager said.

Mazda partnered with the upcoming space thriller “Star Trek Into Darkness” as part of the 6’s launch. Check out this  :30 commercial Mazda did to help promote the film

It makes sense for Mazda to team up with this sci fi flick to tout its SKYACTIV Technology that improves driving, safety and fuel economy.  Mazda has an app related to the movie that assigns 5 missions, including a trip to a Mazda dealership to take and upload a photo. Dealers will also get movie tickets to share with  service customers.

Mazda takes the “Game Changer” theme to print and out-of-home ads, like this interactive board carrying the headline “When you  Change Everything, You Change Everything.”

Mazda6adChange

I may be nitpicking, but this ad (shown) and several like it remind me an awful lot of the work BBDO Detroit did back in 1992 for the launch of the new Dodge Intrepid. “We’re Changing Everything,” was the ad theme for that campaign. Okay, that was back in 1992, so maybe I am nitpicking.

Anything that can get little Mazda more exposure is a good thing.

MAKING TRACKS: Life IS stranger than  fiction. Steve Majoros joins Cadillac as global marketing director. Majoros was a managing director at IPG’s Campbell-Ewald ad agency. C-E had been Chevrolet’s ad agency for more than 90 years and is said to be in the pitch for Cadillac’s business. What does that mean for Fallon, Caddy’s current ad shop? Bad news, probably.

MAKING TRACKS II : Word is Hyundai creative ad agency ,affiliate Innocean Worldwide Americas in Huntington Beach is close to hiring a new COO after a year-long search. Stay tuned, folks.

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

Chevy Ads Run Deep/Shallow

General Motors’ volume Chevrolet brand is in the midst of advertising for two key car models: its newest-generation Malibu and the 2013 Spark.

Chevy says the Malibu is the auto industry’s longest-running mid-size nameplate, having first arrived in 1964 as the top model in Chevelle’s line. So the newest generation of the sedan in the competitive mid-size category deserves a top-shelf send-off.

The Spark mini car is aimed at a younger crowd who could be the next wave of loyal GM buyers.

Both cars have gotten decent reviews.

It’s not unusual for a mass-market car brand to have two very different kinds of campaigns for different models. The rub here is the blitz for the Malibu doesn’t do the car justice. The work out there, so far, is shallow. It doesn’t run deep. But the Spark campaign is much more creative and entertaining.

What’s puzzling is the work comes from the same ad agency- Commonwealth, which seems to have a split personality.

That’s entirely possible since Commonwealth was created earlier this year with a 50-50 venture between agencies from two different public holding companies: Omnicom Group’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Interpublic Group of Cos.’ McCann Erickson Worldwide. Both ad agencies were already on GM’s roster, but this new entity is handling Chevrolet in most parts of the world.

The new Malibu campaign is in full swing. Check out this national Malibu television commercial, called “State of Mind”

 There’s nothing compelling about this commercial. It’s like Commonwealth just phoned in this car-on-road, B-roll video with narrator Tim Allen talking about product benefits. And what exactly is this mysterious “Malibu state of mind?”

Malibu is also chasing women shoppers with a separate, integrated blitz featuring fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi. He’s created his new Chevy Malibu collection, which he and Chevy are touting all over the internet in videos like this

His collection is now being sold on Living Social, which has good reach with 70 million members around the world. There’s also an online promotion offering a $5,000 shopping spree. Chevy’s marriage to Mizrahi is interesting to say the least. It’s certainly not the first time GM has partnered with a fashion designer. From 1996 through 2000, GM teamed with the Council of Fashion Designers for Concept:Cure, a fundraiser for breast cancer research. Every year several designers would get a single GM model from across its brands to rework with interior and exterior colors and fabrics. Chevy’s now-defunct Cavalier was a mainstay of Concept:Cure.

GM’s new media agency, Aegis Group’s Carat, put the deal together with Mizrahi. Time Inc. produced some 50 online videos for the blitz- yes 50!. The videos can be seen on Time-Warner’s stable of sites, which certainly makes the whole deal seem like a giant media buying deal, although the effort does include non-Time-Warner sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Mizrahi said “each piece of my capsule collection was inspired by the features of the car, from the leather seats that feel like they are hugging you, to the ice-blue interior lighting.”

That interior lighting color is the inspiration for his Malibu Blouse, a $140 robin-blue number made of silk crepe.

Mary Kubitskey, Malibu’s advertising manager, said “collaborating with Isaac Mizrahi on this collection has helped us speak to women who embrace style, but want a smart product to make their lives easier.”

Okay, but not sure how a $140 blouse will make anyone’s life easier.

There’s been some hand-wringing on LinkedIn auto groups that this tie-in positions the new Malibu as a “chick car.” Such fretting isn’t warranted, since Chevy is balancing media buys for the Malibu with heavy rotations during NFL and post-season MLB games. It’s doubtful most men will even catch onto the Malibu-Mizrahi marriage. Despite this, the whole tie-in seems a bit forced.

Let’s move onto the Spark.

The little city car, an import from GM’s South Korean operations, first arrived here in 2009. Chevy is now giving the 2013- model Spark a digital-only push, with no plans to take the videos to television.

Since the Spark is a global car, Chevy wanted the videos to have a global feel. So the campaign is themed “Importing our Export.” The first online videos of the 2013 blitz started on YouTube and Chevrolet.com/Spark, featuring ads from around the world.

Here’s one the first, called “Anthem”

The video is a compilation of online spots that are generally fun and engaging. I especially like this video, dubbed “Hurdy Gurdy” that touts the car’s movie-watching capabilities from the USB port

What a creative way to show off that feature!

Although the Spark is aimed at a younger crowd, some of the videos have a lot of cross-generational appeal.

Chevy said the campaign has already gotten over a million views and lots of positive feedback.

Commonwealth hits it out of the ball park for the Spark, but strikes out for the Malibu. A mass market car like the Malibu doesn’t and shouldn’t have to have bland, mass-market advertising.

———————

*This post first appeared in CNW’s monthly Retail Automotive Summary, a subscriber-only newsletter, as my AdRap column.

MAKING TRACKS: Stay tuned to see who will fill two major car marketing jobs in Detroit. Ford Motor Co. is looking for a marketing chief for Lincoln, after moving  C.J. O’Donnell, group marketing manager, to head marketing of Ford’s electric vehicles. And GM is looking for a global VP to oversee Chevrolet brand management, advertising, and marketing, with sales and service also expected to be part of the job. Earlier this month, GM tapped its lobbyist, Bob Ferguson, to that same newly-created global post at Cadillac. Currently Chris Perry heads Chevrolet marketing globally and is said to be a candidate for the newly-created job.

MAKING TRACKS UPDATE: Don Romano, former CMO of Mazda in North America and president of Mazda Canada,  is now managing director and CMO of  Toyota Saudi Arabia.

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

On Twitter: @jhal2001

Ford’s “Animated” C-MAX Ads

Ford Motor Co. tapped a nameless, animated character, developed in Italy, for the launch of its new C-MAX Hybrid.

The “La Linea” character will appear in all C-MAX communications, arriving tonight in a pair of :30s on national TV from TeamDetroit in Dearborn. Ford is taking direct aim at the Toyota Prius, which virtually controls the hybrid market in this country. Ford’s ads are going to crow about how the C-MAX Hybrid gets better mileage, is cheaper and has more horsepower than the Prius v wagon.

La Linea (Italian for “the line), made it to American tv sets in the 1970s into 1986, appearing on the kids’ show “Great Space Coaster.”

In case you don’t remember the character, here’s one of the commercials, called “Be Great”

What’s not to like about the simplicity of the work and clarity of message? The ads are intriguing and should stand out in the auto category. The only thing that bothers me about these first 2 spots is the “Hi “line. It reminds me of BBDO Detroit’s 1994 launch work for the Dodge and Plymouth Neon: “Say Hi To Neon.”

Toby Barlow, executive VP and chief creative officer of TeamDetroit told me his group took the “Hi” road because it was more friendly than the industry’s traditional “introducing the…..” He told me “no one should be saying introducing. It’s not really part of the vernacular.”

Sounds good to me.

Using this simple character was no easy feat. Mama Mia!

Its creator, artist Osvaldo Cavandoli, died in 2007. TeamDetroit worked with Quipos, the company that has the rights to “La Linea” to keep the look authentic. Since the licensing deal required the animation be done by hand, TeamDetroit worked with Shilo. The New York shop, which has produced the MetLife ads with Snoopy, made computer versions of the ads. They were then sent to the animators so they could create everything by hand.

TeamDetroit’s Brad Hensen, creative director, said “the fact that each cell has to be hand-drawn lends a certain warmth to the animation.”

The C-MAX blitz will continue for 15 months and includes print, out-of-home and events. The social media play includes an ad buy on LinkedIn, probably on the sign-out page, plus Facebook and a micro site with amusing “Hybrid Games” videos spoofing two sports casters showing how well the C-Max performs against Toyota’s Prius v. This site

hybridgames

has a share button so visitors can spread the word for Ford if they want.

Since the vast majority of hybrid vehicles are bought in a handful of markets, Ford will augment the national media buy with regional.

Let’s be realistic, Ford isn’t about to unseat the Prius any time soon. Nor are any other hybrids in the near future. But Ford has a very compelling product offering in the C-MAX Hybrid that could slowly start eroding the Toyota’s share.

MAKING TRACKS: Russel Wager is back in the USA! Wager is joining Mazda North America Operations as VP-marketing from DDB in Beijing, where he led VW’s account. Wager left the US in 2010 to move to Japan joining  TBWA\Hakuhodo International as president and heading the Nissan account in 52 countries. He succeeds Don Romano, who resigned this summer as CMO and the head of Mazda in Canada. Romano is now said to be a distributor.

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

On Twitter @jhal2001

Some Hits, Some Misses at Toyota Motor

 Toyota Motor Sales USA certainly seems to be rocking and rolling again after several years in the barrel.

The bleak years, lest we forget, were marked by massive recalls, embarrasing Congressional hearings, federal fines, red ink, then compounded by last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Despite lots of dire predictions, the the sky didn’t crash in on the automaker. Toyota, Scion & Lexus are now back in favor with Americans.

The automaker reported selling 1.399 million Toyotas and Scions in the first 8 months of 2012 vs. just 1.07 million a year ago. Lexus sales were up almost 25% in the same period to 150,604 units.

That’s still not as good as the first 8 months of 2007, when the OEM sold 1.569 million Toyotas and Scions, plus 220,000 Lexus vehicles. To be fair the whole industry has been in a funk in the USA for several years. These days, Toyota Motor is motoring right along.

Over the years, the automaker’s advertising hasn’t been much to crow about. The three brands have sold lots of new vehicles IN SPITE of their so-so advertising. But there’s a couple of bright spots of late.

Let’s start with Lexus, which has used some of the most mind-numbing ads in the luxury car segment pretty much since this new century has started. That’s such a shame for the brand that bowed in the ’80s with some of the industry’s most memorable ads. Remember the champagne glasses balancing quietly on the idling car’s hood?

For the launch of the new 2013 ES and first ES Hybrid comes this gem, called “Split World”

Bravo! This commercial from longtime Lexus agency Team One is one of the best from the brand in a long time. It’s visually arresting, almost forcing you to watch. The montage portrays modernism, cool technology and luxury. And the whole premise actually make s sense: “Introducing a reason to look twice.” It’s not loaded with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo or list of features, which most people will just go online to find out anyway.

But Lexus isn’t quite out of the woods. How could a brand that got it so right with that spot get it so wrong with another ES launch commercial? Check this one out, dubbed “Future Unfolded”

Isn’t it amazing how different the two spots are? This one is simply lame. Lexus said this is one of 3 spots targeting African-Americans, Hispanics and the LGBT crowds. This commercial tries too hard to be cool and young- two words not readily associated with Lexus. Why are all those young folks inside the ES and dancing around it? One place the Lexus ES won’t be taking these hip people is to a night club. They are no where near in age to the actual Lexus owner base.

You can’t fool people about this either. One sharp YouTuber noted: “That’s funny…I didn’t see any old people” in this ad.

The scrip writing is forced in this commercial. especially this line from the narrator, actor Jim Remar, “with technology and style to match your achievements and desires.” Whoa! That’s quite lofty and presumptuous of Lexus to think it knows what people’s desires are. Those lines are just wasting time and space in the ad.

Lexus is taking a page from its younger cousin Scion with a social media push reaching out to start-up innovators, offering four of them each the chance to get $100,000 in seed money for their products. Voting is on a custom Facebook app.

The ES also becomes the first car with a brand page on mobile Flipboard. This is a smarter way to reach a younger audience.

OK. Let’s move onto the Toyota brand.

It’s been a while since Toyota has done any meaningful national advertising for its full-size Tundra pickup. Back in 2007, Toyota spent more that $100 million to launch the then-redone, more competitive Tundra in hopes of selling 200,000 that year. At the time that was Toyota’s biggest-ever launch.

But Tundra still takes a back seat to Detroit’s truck iron, selling only 65,600 Tundras in the first 8 months of 2012.

Toyota is beating the drums again for the pickup, starting with a multi-media push this month about how the Tundra will tow “an American icon live before the whole world” on Oct. 13.

Yup, the Tundra will haul the space shuttle Endeavour for the last leg of its trip from Los Angeles International Airport on city streets to the California Science Center. It’s a big deal since a stock, 1/2-ton, 2012 Tundra CrewMax will be used to tow the 145-ton shuttle.

Toyota’s ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, handled the deal with the Science Center to show off the Tundra’s toughness and towing abilities.

Here’s the promo, just one of lots of videos for the effort

 

Toyota is encouraging people to follow the Tundra’s adventure online at http://www.toyota.com/TundraEndeavour. People can sign up for e-mail updates. Toyota will donate $50 to the Science Center for every Tweet on Twitter about the tow.

There’s just one little detail that’s almost glossed over in Toyota’s hype about this feat. The pickup is only going to tow the space shuttle the last quarter mile of its 12-mile trip to the Science Center!!

Doesn’t all this hoopla seem a bit too much for that?

Meantime, the Toyota Division just announced it is dropped its “Moving Forward”  ad tag after 8 years. That’s great news! That line was nothing but a corporate-driven theme from on high that really had little to do with the brand. Not only that, it’s generic and could have been used for lots of car brands.

I’ll bet 9 out of 10 Americans could NOT identify “Moving Forward” as Toyota’s ad tag since 2004, even after millions of dollars of advertising. Get this: back in 2004, Toyota exec Jim Lentz admitted that the brand’s “Oh, what a feeling”  tag, which showed owners jumping for joy, had the most consumer awareness at the time. Makes you wonder why they dropped it in 1986 after 6 years.

Toyota’s new line, “Let’s Go Places,” will bow late this year.

Is it me or does that line also sound very generic and interchangeable with other car brands? Hey, it could also be used for an airline or online travel site for that matter.

Toyota Division’s Bill Fay, group VP-general manager, gave this reasoning, saying the new tag “speaks to the evolution of Toyota and our commitment to leading through innovation, enriching lives and connecting with customers in new ways they define.” He called the tag “energetic, aspirational, inclusive and very versatile” and added “the phrase conveys a dual meaning of physically going places and taking off on an adventure, while also expressing optimism and the promise of exciting innovations that enriches people’s lives.”

Really?

I’ll have what he’s having.

It would be better to have NO tag than one that isn’t directly relevant to your brand and only your brand.

But here’s something Toyota IS doing right.  lt has taken testimonial ads to a new level with its new Camry Effect blitz that includes this site at http:/toyota.com/camryeffect

Billed as “Real Owners. Real Stories,” the site is loaded with tons of great input from actual owners. The site has interesting factoids: 79% of Camry owners know how to change a tire and 82% prefer an automatic. Camry has some of the most loyal owners in the industry and millions of them.

Toyota actually introduced the “Camry Effect” social media site a year ago as part of the launch for the redone 2012 model. But back then, the site was more of a stand-alone, really just the digital part of the Camry’s multi-media launch. Toyota figured out earlier this year a better way to marry the fan site with its more traditional media. Here’s the latest TV spot that arrived this month

Testimonial ads are nothing new in car advertising, but THIS is smart advertising and sets the bar for the industry.

(This post appeared recently in CNW’s monthly, subscriber-only newsletter)

MAKING TRACKS: Congrats to Kathy Speck, who joined Chevrolet’s ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, as associate creative director. Chevy Runs Deep for Speck, who spent 26 years at Campbell-Ewald working as a creative on Chevrolet and other brands before she started doing work for McCann in 2011 as a freelance creative.

MORE TRACKS: General Motors moved Molly Peck back to Chevrolet as US ad director from the same post at Cadillac for about 18 months. We have high hopes for Peck, who oversaw Cadillac’s most interesting advertising in a few years – for the ATS launch. Before her move to Caddy last year, Peck was Chevy’s national ad manager for 4 years, but her experience at the bow-tie brand includes assistant brand manager of marketing for the now-defunct Cavalier.

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

On Twitter: @jhal2001

BIG IDEA FROM HYUNDAI’S MOTHER SHIP

South Korea- based Hyundai has been on a roll in the past several years, with much-improved products that have boosted sales and lifted the brand’s image around the world.

Why mess with success, right?

Not exactly.

The marketing “gurus” at the Mother Ship in Seoul decided it was time for Hyundai’s first worldwide ad campaign to build a consistent global message for the brand. Or maybe they felt it was time to flex their authoritative muscles or justify their positions.

What did they come up with?  A new brand campaign themed  “Live Brilliant.”

Really?

Take a look at this lame attempt to stir emotions, just one of four :60 television commercials in the series

How does this differentiate Hyundai from others? Not much. Seems you could just pick another car brand and insert it into this spot. Also don’t see how this ties to Hyundai’s stated strategy to reinforce its new brand direction of “Modern Premium.”

Who uses the word “brilliant” anyway, unless you’re talking about your kids?

Believe it or not, Hyundai says it spent a year doing leg work preparing for this, including consumer research. Then it shot the commercials over 10 days in Los Angeles earlier this year.

And the Mother Ship spent some dough on this, hiring award winning German director Juergen Bollmeyer and buying “Departures,” the song from “Like Crazy,” which won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Drama last year at  Sundance.

What Hyundai’s Mother Ship DIDN’T do was consult in other regions with its marketing chiefs or officials from Innocean, the ad agency owned by Hyundai’s controlling family. Instead, the Mother Ship simply forced this work down their throats, regional strategies be damned.

Mind you, Hyundai in North America just launched its new ad slogan “New Thinking. New Possibilities” about 14 months ago. It takes a lot of time for the public to grasp new ad themes. Sometimes people never catch on to ad tags, especially if they are inane, which too many of them are.

We’re not a fan of the Mother Ship dictating ads to other parts of the world.

Here’s some examples. From Japan, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. decided in 2011 it was time for its Subaru of America arm to use the new ad theme “Confidence in Motion,” which has zero emotional appeal. From Germany, Volkswagen insisted in 2009 that VW of America use “Das Auto” to convey German engineering. DUH!

Hyundai’s “Brilliant” idea?

I think not.

MAKING TRACKS: Michael Jackson is returning to Motown and he’s bringing his year-old ad agency with him.

His year-old shop, Jackson & Partners, is relocating from Las Vegas to Midtown Detroit and expects to create 30 news jobs in the next three years. Jackson’s partners are Detroit-area native and auto creative chief Gary Topolewski, along with Randy Easterbrook, an indie communications consultant who has done work for many big companies, including General Motors and Mini.

 Jackson joined GM in 2000 as executive director of sales and marketing support, but he rose to VP-marketing and advertising for North America in 2006, overseeing a $2-billion-plus ad budget.  He left GM and Detroit in 2007.  Since then he was CEO of SPEEDSHAPE, worked at digital shop Sarkissian Mason and more recently VP of global sales and distribution for Coda in California.

 J&P’s current client roster includes auto dealers on both coasts, plus brand-building work for a nationally-known jewelry group.

Mr. Easterbrook is in the process of moving from New York.

Topolewski’s experience includes Jeep at Bozell, where he and his team won a Gold Lion at Cannes; Cadillac at Leo Burnett; and Nissan, Taco Bell and Apple at TBWA/Chiat/Day.

Good luck, guys!

MAKING TRACKS TOO: Bob Rickert has joined the Denver-area office of HMH as executive creative director, handling accounts that include Nike, Freightliner, Detroit Diesel and Dr. Martens. Rickert had stints at David&Goliath on Kia and Saatchi & Saatchi on Toyota.

You can find me, Jean Halliday, on Facebook and LinkedIn and also on Twitter @ jhal2001


Ford’s “Go Further” Advertising

The Ford brand is getting a lot of buzz from its new “Go Further” commercial that doesn’t vocalize the brand name or show badging on any of the vehicles.

Check out the minute-long spot

This commercial is NOT devoid of Ford branding. There are a few, very obvious clues to sharp-eyed viewers of this ad who the advertiser is. Gear heads and car enthusiasts would certainly know that the EcoBoost engines mentioned belong to Ford and Ford alone. Then at the :42 and :47 marks, the words “2013 Fusion Energi” and “Ford Motor Co.” appear on the bottom of the screen in small print for several seconds.

Bravo to Ford and its ad agency, TeamDetroit, both  in Dearborn, Michigan. This is a very smart way to reel in inquisitive people who would never consider a Ford since they would very likely to check out the gofurther.com web site appearing at the end of the commercial.

Ford says “Go Further” replaces “Drive One,” which always sounded a bit desperate and Ford’s days of desperation seem well in its rear-view mirror.

The automaker also says it’s making a conscious effort to move from showing people to showcasing what’s new in the showroom. Great move, since what is Ford selling after all? (And the move is reminiscent of the philosophy of the late, great Dick Johnson, top creative of BBDO Detroit on Dodge. See my post about Dick and his philosophy here

autoadopolis.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/auto-ad-world-loses-great-ad-man/

Hope this move means farewell to the “surprise press conference” format with actual Ford owners.

Ford has caught some flack for its “Go Further” line. Critics say Ford  copied the “Go Farther” ad tag that Isuzu used in USA ads starting in the late 1990s. Isuzu, which no longer sells light vehicles in the US anymore, wanted to convey the toughness and go-any where capabilities of its all-truck lineup. See what I mean in this Isuzu Rodeo commercial, one of my favorites in the series, from Isuzu’s agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. (Sorry for the lousy resolution, but it’s the only version I could find)

Yeah, the words are similar, but the intent of each auto brand’s ad tag is very different. Very different indeed, don’t you agree? Looking forward to the next versions of Ford’s “Go Farther” ads.

MAKING TRACKS:  Jack Valente, who moved to InStadium as senior VP of national business development, from client leader at Mindshare.

Follow me, Jean Halliday, on Facebook and LinkedIn

Find me on Twitter @jhal2001