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The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: 2011 in Review

It’s nearly the end of 2011 and that means it’s time to critique OEM’s advertising.

There’s a plethora of car advertising every year, so the field is huge. But considering the billions of dollars the car companies collectively invest in advertising every year, it’s quite amazing that the not-so-great work outnumbers the great stuff. And it doesn’t matter which medium is used.

Let’s start with the good news, the brands who are doing some of the best work.

Audi of America is a stand out, with some of the most consistent on-brand messages in the industry. This is a brand that knows who it is, knows its audience and communicates in smart and entertaining ways.

One of my favorites was this TV commercial for the May launch of the A7, called “Spring Cleaning”

The humorous A8 campaign in late summer was also memorable. The ads used cultural examples of greatness as a metaphor to Audi’s top-of-the-line sedan, all themed “true greatness should never go unrecognized.”

My favorite of the trio was this one with NBA Coach Phil Jackson

Like all automotive advertisers, Audi plays the field in media. Earlier this year, Visibli research found that Audi USA’s Facebook page got more “likes” to postings on its page (or 225+ per 100,000 fans) translating to more popularity than second-place Justin Bieber and fourth-place Lady Gaga. That’s simply awesome!

Kudos to Audi CMO Scott Keogh and Audi’s main creative shop, Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco along with its social media agencies ZAAZ and M80.

Mazda is another brand deserving praise for knowing who it is and telling that story in interesting ways. Mazda kicked off a driver-focused blitz in April after what CMO Don Romano told me was the biggest outlay ever for consumer research. Mazda learned, among other things, that peoples’ perception of its quality was nowhere near reality. And Mazda wanted to broaden its appeal, ironically, even as Romano admitted “we don’t build cars for everyone.”

This “Chapter One” ad in the spring from new agency Team Mazda explains the brand’s culture of “if it’s not worth driving, it’s not worth building”

Mazda isn’t planning any specific ads on quality. Romano said quality is being communicated in the ads by explaining the engineering culture. Mazda has been consistent all year, moving the new ad theme to specific products, along with the new Skyactiv® Technology in this recent smart spot for the 2012 Mazda3, called “Prison Break”

In less than 2 months, this spot  already  attracted nearly 3 million views on YouTube.  WOW, very impressive!

Kia is another  2011 auto advertising standout. The  carmaker began the year with its over-the-top launch commercial from David&Goliath, Los Angeles, for the new Optima  during the Super Bowl

Epic indeed. And so unusual for the auto category. It was perfect for the huge audience of the Super Bowl’, where ho-hum ads simply don’t fly.

Accolades to Kia’s VP-Marketing Michael Sprague for also keeping the urban rapping hamsters in Kia Soul ads. The whimsical hamsters click with the Soul’s youthful target. Kia’s hamsters have gotten so popular since first bursting on the scene in 2009 that this year the ad mascots won Advertising  Week’s first-ever “Rookie of the Year” Award in Manhattan.

Not many carmakers were consistent in their advertising this year. Sadly, all three of Detroit’s automakers – General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group fell into that category.

At a time when GM has some of the most competitive products, they are simply not getting to the heart and soul of their brands. This situation is most evident at GM’s biggest brand, Chevrolet, which is now in the midst of a global agency review for its creative.

More than a year after Chevrolet rolled out its new ad “Chevy Runs Deep” ad theme from its new US shop, San Francisco’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, there’s too much slice-of-life advertising focusing more on owners than the brand soul, the products and features. All five of Chevy’s Super Bowl in-game commercials were of this genre. Ditto for this more recent one for the 2012 Cruze Eco

Every once in a while Chevy manages some very cool ads, like this one for its centennial called “Now & Then”

Every once in a while simply isn’t good enough.

When it comes to social media, Chevrolet has dialed up its presence significantly- to a point that’s nearing over saturation. Maybe that’s one reason why GM dropped its social agency, Big Fuel, and reassigned the work to each brand’s main creative shop.

Chevrolet isn’t alone here. As the head of one car ad agency told me: “we’re all jumping into social media, almost backwards,” just to be there and see what happens.

Ford really set the bar high in social media back in 2009 with its Fiesta Movement to pre-launch the small car. But this year’s online-only, social media blitz for the 2012 Focus with orange “spokespuppet” Doug fell flat. The campaign was too long – months and months- with dozens of videos. Doug had a big attitude and was quite obnoxious. Doug was the creation of Ford’s ad agency TeamDetroit in Dearborn, and director Paul Feig of NBC TV’s “The Office,” which I also don’t find amusing, but is a hit with younger audiences.

Doug was introduced in March at a press-conference

Sorry, but this press conference format is lame and one the Ford brand has used extensively all year in other ads for other models. Ford got into hot water for one of these commercials and online videos when actual F-150 owner, Chris, admitted he wasn’t going to buy from a car company bailed out by Uncle Sam.

Onto Chrysler Group, which started the year with a bang with the unprecedented two-minute Super Bowl commercial for the 300 with Eminem. The “Imported From Detroit” spot not only got tons of buzz, it won four Gold Lions at the international ad festival at Cannes- no small feat.

Who would have guessed it would take a Frenchman, CMO Olivier Francois, working at an Italian-owned car company and a Portland, Oregon ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy, to nail the Motor City attitude?

But when it came to launching Fiat in the US, Francois’ big deal with Jennifer Lopez is a flop of epic proportions.

Another dud comes from Toyota Motor Sales USA’s Scion arm. Scion really blew it with this ridiculous blitz from ATTIK in San Francisco for the limited-edition “High Voltage tC.”

Thankfully most of the “episodes” with this lame Zeus spokesman were online.

The Toyota brand also had its share of missteps this year. One of the most disappointing campaigns, from Saatchi & Saatchi in Los Angeles, was for the Venza. The ads show self-absorbed twenty-something children “fretting” (needlessly it turns out) about their aging parents. Unfortunately the ads are more about the people than the vehicle.

What were they thinking?

Ditto for Nissan, with this corporate branding attempt that hit the airwaves in August with the explanation “to become a more responsible car company, Nissan developed a more responsible ship”

This commercial is wrong on so many levels. A minute is just too long. Plus, it’s BORING. Trying to compare Nissan’s sleek ship design to its car styling is a stretch and downright silly. Since this spot features the head of design in Japan, ya gotta figure either the the guys in the homeland pushed through this “Big Idea” or Nissan’s USA team in Nashville decided to kiss some, err… rings.

Then, there’s Honda, which along with its sibling Acura, has put out too many so-so ad messages for a long time. Like, why is it a great idea to use these weirdo characters in launch ads for the 2012 Civic

Oh!! There’s 5 different versions of the Civic- for 5 different kinds of buyers. Get it? Admittedly we’re not in the age group Honda is targeting here. But zombies and ninjas? Really? They are just too creepy.

By the way, a top ad exec at one of the major car companies (who will remain nameless) recently told me he predicts Honda will have an agency review in 2012.

My favorite Honda ad in 2011 from its longtime agency, RPA in Santa Monica, with this cheeky :30 ad starring Mario Andretti called “Walk Around”

Now this is a fun spot, even if just to introduce a promotion. Would have liked to have seen more of Mario and the fun-to-drive aspect of the 200-mpg Civic coupe instead of this one-time ad.

Finally, there’s VW, now and then over the years one of the best auto advertisers in the industry. Deutsch Los Angeles is agency of record.

The minute-long, 2012 Passat teaser commercial, called “The Force,” that debuted during the Super Bowl was cute and now has an eye-popping 44 million views on YouTube.  Simply amazing.

But Deutsch missed the mark with this online “VP Academy” series with Saturday Night Live comedian Bill Hader, SNL writer John Mulaney and VW product specialist Danielle Gumro. Judge for yourself

This 2012 Beetle commercial is catchy with Shirley Ellis singing her “Clapping Song.” While the ad is quirky and leaves viewers with with good feelings, what does it really tell us about the car?

And, why does VW feel the need to hit Americans over the head with both “German Engineering” AND “Das Auto” at the end of so many commercials? Do they think we’re THAT dumb that we can’t connect “Das Auto” to Germany?

Auto advertising is not rocket science. It is a combination of art and science. The science is formulating the right strategy after doing the best research and reading the results correctly. The art part is much trickier because sometimes it’s just a gut feeling knowing what’s right for your brand.

Doing both isn’t easy, or great advertising would be the norm for the entire industry.

Better luck next year!

MAKING TRACKS: Charlie Metzger has moved on. After 11 years at McCann-Erickson’s suburban Detroit office, he is now Exec VP-CMO at The Palace. Good luck, Charlie! Sounds like a fun gig.

I’d like to thank all of my readers for taking the time to visit my blog. Wishing you all a happy, healthy & prosperous 2012!

You can follow me, Jean Halliday, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

On Twitter, I’m @jhal2001

Nissan’s Unbelievable Frontier Ads

By Jean Halliday
Nissan North America has unleashed a couple of over-the-top TV commercials for its Frontier pickup. One of them in particular is generating lots of online buzz.
Called “Landing Gear,” the spot shows the mid-size Frontier rescuing a commercial airline with landing gear trouble.

There’s plenty of non-believers out there about the reality of Frontier’s ability to pull off this amazing feat, according to the comments on YouTube, where the commercial has already tallied a very respectable number of views- more than 305,000 in just a few weeks.
After all, the maximum towing capacity of the 2012 Frontier is rated at up to 6,500 pounds maximum, when properly equipped. Let’s estimate, conservatively, that the weight for the nose for that moving plane weighs about 30,000 pounds.
Anyone see a problem here?
It’s hard to remember the last time Nissan even advertised its mid-size pickup and it’s a mystery why it would take this route.
Then there’s the other commercial, dubbed “ Hill Climb,” showing the Frontier doing another incredible task.

Plenty of non-believers commented on YouTube about this one too. “The commercials are actually 100 percent fake, which tells you everything you need to know about the company which paid for them. You really want to buy a truck from people who have zero respect for the viewing audience?”
And finally, Nissan more recently posted this online-only video spoofing the landing gear mishap as a real news story. You can see that one here:

Nissan, and its legal beagles, have however, covered their butts on all three of these. If you look very closely- and quickly- all three videos have the small words “ Fictionalization. Do not attempt.”
So there.
The commercial is, to put it politely, a dramatization. But the words are only there for the opening 4-to-6 seconds before they disappear. Clearly the YouTube viewers debating the videos’ veracity have not spotted the disclaimer.
Why would an automaker want to show one of their products doing something it can’t really do? It insults consumers and in the end belittles the product.
Nissan could also run the risk of rival complaints for deceptive advertising to either the Federal Trade Commission or National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business.
Brings back memories of Volvo’s 1990 “Monster Truck” commercial scandal. The Volvo was the only car not crushed by a “monster truck” in that spot, but Volvo didn’t reveal in the ad that the roof of its vehicle had been reinforced. The FTC levied fines of of $150,000 against both Volvo and its then-ad agency, Scali, McCabe, Sloves in Manhattan, which got fired over the incident.
As if the buzzing online doubts about the Frontier’s abilities isn’t enough, another online grapevine is building that Nissan and its ad agency, TBWA, stole the “Landing Gear” idea from Jeep.
Ex-Chrysler marketing executive Jeff Bell was the first to sound the alarm about this, posting on Facebook: “Just shows you that 1) the people running auto marketing have either no historical awareness or 2) they have no pride and enjoy plagiarism.”
Decide for yourself. Here’s the cheeky viral ad Bell says Chrysler had made for Jeep of Europe:

FYI- This 405 project ( was produced by Bruce Branit and Jeremy Hunt for Jeep in 2000, one of very early viral videos that Yahoo Internet Life magazine called the web movie of that year.
Okay, even though the two commercials are very similar, we’re not saying TBWA took Jeep’s idea. There are coincidences. But with search portals, YouTube’s vast body of material and other sites, it’s pretty easy to check whether that Big Idea for your commercial is truly fresh.
So, I did some surfing of my own and found this very similar image in the first 10 seconds of a montage of 1970s and 1980s commercials for the Chevrolet Silverado by Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Michigan:

Hmm, so was it Jeep that first ripped off GM’s similar idea back in 2000?
Big Ideas for advertising could be like the myth of the Christmas Fruit Cakes: there’s only seven of them in the world and they keep getting passed on.
If you’re going to do a dramatic pickup ad, you might as well go over the top, but in an entertaining way that the audience knows is fake.
One of my favorites was for Ford’s 1997 model F-150. By JWT Detroit, it broke during the 1996 Super Bowl and featured actor Jack Palance as a tough cowboy who uses the pickup and a lariat to rope a butte and close a river gorge.

Now that’s a Big Idea.

MAKING TRACKS: Eric Grenier moved to VP – Director, Enterprise at Ford’s ad agency- Team Detroit in Dearborn – from Organic.

***THIS POST first appeared in CNW Research’s most recent subscriber-only  Retail Automotive Summary.

You can follow me on Facebook and LinkedIn. Also on Twitter as @jhal2001

Holiday Year-End Sales Push Is On

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, if that classic holiday ditty is to be believed.
But get ready to be bombarded with advertising as automakers roll out their annual year-end sales advertising. It’s a long tradition of clearing out inventory in a sprint to end the year on a high note.
In normal, more robust years for the industry, the ads would start after Thanksgiving.
But this is not a normal year by any means and it seems more car brands are starting their year-end campaigns early.
Who’s out and running already this year? And how does the advertising look?
BMW has tied its annual sales’ event to the upcoming “Mission Impossible” movie, “Ghost Protocol,” in which several BMWs get decent screen time. It’s part of a global co-marketing deal with Paramount Pictures that will include broadcast, online, print ads and a contest for a trip to the USA premier next month.
Take a look

BMW’s sale, dubbed “Mission To Drive,” offers, among other deals, a credit of up to $2,500 on every 2012 model and 0.9% financing rates up to 24 months on all 2012 models. These offers have a “self-destructing” offer running now through January 2.
Are folks dying to see this latest installment with Tom Cruise? I, for one, am not. While Mission Impossible flicks have been a financial success, the critics haven’t been impressed. Not very holiday-ish, are they?
I prefer Audi of America’s light-hearted “Season of Audi” spot, called “Parents, from Venables Bell & Partners in San Francisco

Audi has enjoyed a good year, with USA sales up 16.5% through October to 95,206 compared to a year ago. The sales’ offers include first lease payments on select 2012 models, with the security deposit waived.
Toyota’s Lexus brand is back with its “December to Remember,” a theme that it has used consistently since 1995 for its year-end holiday advertising. The memorable giant red bows, pushing the cars-as-gifts idea, was added to the blitz in 1998. Team One, Santa Monica, handles
Lexus was slammed by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan this year. Its new-vehicle sales in this country have skidded by more than 16% and its its clear-out sale, starting November 18, is about a month early.
But sibling Toyota plans to wait until its traditional Thanksgiving time to start its year-end advertising.
Nissan’s Infiniti brand has also just started its “Limited Engagement Winter Event.”
Nissan’s Infiniti brand is picking up where it left last year- with an update of an adult snow ball fight from TBWA/Chiat/Day

Not sure why Infiniti is also still running this same spot from last year

Not to be left in the dust, Mercedes-Benz is advertising its sale with Santa Claus in a new commercial from Merkley + Partners in New York.
While the upscale brands are all in the mix, mass marketer Chevrolet just started ads for its Calender Year-End Event

Not bad. I like the use of the white-bearded salesman and a holiday feel.
One of my all-time favorites is still Kia’s 2007 “Kiafest” commercial from DavidandGoliath in Los Angeles

Now THAT’s a memorable ad that still makes me laugh. Ian Beavis, Kia’s VP-marketing at the time told me then he was taking a different approach to stand out and because “you can’t bore people into buying a car.”

For those who can afford something REALLY special, there’s always the annual Neiman Marcus limited edition car in the retailer’s Christmas Book.
Sorry but if you wanted one of the 10 Ferrari FFs,  costing $395,000 a pop, they are all gone—swopped up in 50 minutes.
Happy Holidays, indeed!

Chevy’s New Ads: Still Not Consistent.

As GM’s Chevrolet brand celebrates its 100th year on November 3, the advertiser has cranked out a ton of new work.
The work, most visible on television and online, includes the centennial celebration, launch work for the new Sonic and for the Silverado pickup. Unfortunately, it’s a mixed bag that still doesn’t clarify the soul of Chevrolet.
There’s too much slice-of-life advertising that spends more time on owners and their here-and-now situations than particular models or features. Like this recent one for the 2012 Cruze Eco

Cute bit? Yes. Funny? Yes. But memorable? Nope.
With all the money Chevy is spending, the advertising to date also hasn’t improved buyer consideration or really explained how much better the vehicles have gotten.
All a shame, really, since it’s another missed opportunity for the brand. And, it comes months after GM’s ad czar Joel Ewanick said he was looking for consistency in messaging. (see my earlier blog:

Ewanick handed Chevrolet’s account to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, without a review shortly after his arrival at GM from Hyundai in May 2010. That should be more than enough time for the client and agency to get their act together for this storied brand.
A point not missed by GM CEO Dan Akerson, who took over the top job 13 months ago and made marketing a priority. He pushed for a global review of Chevrolet creative. But all the GM speak on this review strongly indicates it’s being done to lower costs, which doesn’t translate to best creative.
This review will be the battle of the holding companies, auto conflicts be damned: Publicis; Interpublic; Omnicom and Cheil. Wondering why dark horse Cheil is in there? Could Ewanick, who knows that South Korean’s largest ad group and affiliate of Samsung, is an archrival of Hyundai, want to stick it to his former employer?
At any rate, Chevrolet, at the age of 100, still has a perception problem that the past 18 months of advertising hasn’t fixed. Sadly, not a new problem for Chevy. GM’s former North American ad czar Mark LaNeve told me back in the summer of 2008 that consumer misperception was the automaker’s biggest communications challenge.
Changing agencies can hurt brands because of the time it takes the new shops to get up to speed on their new clients.
Meantime, the best of the bunch in Chevy’s new work is this moving, centennial commercial from Goodby, Silverstein called “Then & Now,” with Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful”

One problem with the spot is that many of the comments on YouTube call it a rip-off of Canadian Taylor Jones’ They’re not too happy there’s no credit given to DearPhotograph.
Meanwhile, Chevy just announced that a new documentary about its centennial will air nationally November 21 at 8 pm on cable’s Velocity channel. Produced by award-winning filmmaker Roger Sherman, Chevrolet said “Chevy 100, An American Story” explores Chevrolet culture through owners, collectors, journalists and historians. The film premiers in Detroit tonight at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Chevrolet has made an even bigger push into social media, with promotions and live chats touted on Twitter, Facebook et al. Consider that Chevy has pushed all these out there recently in social media : Plant a Tree project; win ticks to the CMA awards; win tickets to New York Comic Con; win a new Chevy by making virtual Saturday Big Ten Football predictions; Silverado’s Ultimate Hunting promotion and the 2012 Sonic’s bungee jump over the Arizona desert.
Whew. It’s as if all the various marketeering teams inside Chevy don’t know what each is doing. So Chevy’s social media fans end up getting a slew of postings daily, which is awful annoying and may convince them to disconnect.
A recent social media posting was for “The Road We’re On,” from Mother, New York. It’s supposed to be a celebration of not only Chevy’s first 100 years, but how it is working to make life better in the coming century. Here’s the latest in a series of episodes from the small town of Bridgeville, Pa.

Sorry, this 3:44 episode is too long and too boring. Does it really make you want to see the other episodes? Not really.

Here’s Chevy on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in another new centennial effort. Followers asked questions about where Chevy is headed in the next 100 years. Chevrolet’s Alan Batey, VP-sales, service and marketing, answers several of these questions in YouTube videos posted today

The good news is Batey gives short answers. But why is the first question about the brand’s 100-year-old bowtie logo? What does THAT have to do with the next 100 years? Why did they even include this question and answer?

Yes, Chevy, you have come a long way baby. But you still have miles to go before getting your communications’ act together. We’re rooting for ya!

MAKING TRACKS: Congrats to Lynn Simoncini, a home-grown, experienced Motown car ad agency type who is now creative director at Gas Station TV

JUST ASKING: What is taking Hyundai so long in hiring its number two marketing person?

Follow me on Twitter: @jhal2001
or on Facebook: Jean Halliday

Musical Chairs Again At General Motors’ Marketing

General Motors quietly shifted a couple of marketing execs around in recent weeks.
Chris Perry, named vice president of marketing for all USA brands at the start of 2011, was moved back to Chevrolet, this time to the new position of global marketing and strategy chief. It’s the third position for Perry since he arrived from Hyundai Motor America about a year ago.
Rick Scheidt, who was vice president-marketing of Chevrolet, has been moved to a new product and pricing job under North American GM Prez Mark Reuss, a GM spokesman confirmed to AutoAdOpolis.
So who takes Perry’s place as the head of all GM’s marketing here?
That would be Joel Ewanick, who was named global marketing chief last December.
Perry told me at Chevy’s cool Woodward Dream Cruise event yesterday that he still reports to Ewanick, but Joel is now focusing more on USA marketing.
“We’re going to start managing the brands as brands,” said Perry.
The moves all seem to be good news. GM has recognized it has a problem with consistent advertising that is above average.
Now let’s get to it, shall we?

The SUV is back????

Chrysler Group is really pushing the 2011 Dodge Durango, which went on sale earlier this year after a two-year absence from the market. Dodge issued a press release Aug. 4 touting the arrival of a slew of new television ads and online videos for the new Dodge Durango.
Actually, the most recent Durango commercial broke July 12 during baseball’s All Star Game.
That ad, called “Long Lost Performance,” does indeed spotlight Durango’s performance
Dodge also uploaded that commercial on YouTube July 12. It seems the automaker wasn’t too thrilled that the ad had attracted under 25,000 views, so it issued the press release on Aug.4.
There’s already been some blogosphere banter about how the first commercial is too focused on performance. I have different issues with the campaign.
What’s interesting is Dodge’s blurb on YouTube about this spot: “With crossovers trying to convince drivers that cars can be SUVs and with SUVs hiding out pretending to be minivans, the Durango commits to being a true SUV.”
As you can see the ad blitz for the Durango by Wieden + Kennedy, based in Portland, is themed “The SUV is back.”
The critics focusing on the performance matter are off base. The real issues are:
A) The Durango is NOT an SUV according to industry definitions
B) The SUV is NOT back.
Let’s start with A. The new Durango still looks like an SUV, except gone is its old body-on-frame truck base. Now the Durango sits on a car-like unibody.
And on the B issue, there is NO WAY sport utes are ever going to be as strong as they were in their heyday.
Between 1997 and 2002, sales of sport utes jumped 56%, or one for every eight licensed American drivers, according to the Census Bureau. Or, in raw numbers, there were more than 24-million suvs in 2002 than 1997, when there were 15 million on the road.
Sales of truck-based SUVs peaked in 2000 at nearly 3 million units and in 2002, utes were villified by religious groups that launched a “What Would Jesus Drive” campaign against them. Critics blasted the big suvs for hurting the environment and cited the gass guzzlers as the key reason Uncle Sam was fighting in the Middle East.
Volatile gas prices starting in 2006 and escalating in 2008 pretty much put the final kabosh on big truck-based utes, when owners bailed out of the segment faster than anytime in history.
So let’s call it already– the SUV is dead!
HOWEVER, its car-based cousin, the crossover, is picking up the slack. Yeah, the semantics matter little to many Americans since crossover utility vehicles, or CUVs, often LOOK like SUVs. The difference is CUVs are car-based, while SUVs are truck based.
But the Durango is really a CUV and calling it an SUV is midleading. It may have started out an SUV when it first debuted, but it isn’t anymore. The misnomer will cause more consumer confusion.
The new ads, which include online-only videos, includes this TV spot comparing the “luxurious” interior of the Durango to a certain high-performance car that rhymes with Merrari
Let’s not forget that Fiat now owns more than half of Chrysler Group and also owns Ferrari, the high-end car brand referred to in the commercial.
The new Durango blitz isn’t all about performance. Consider this online video touting the rain brake support safety feature
Of course the WORST Durango commercial ever – from GlobalHue – didn’t last on the air very long about five years ago


The other problem I have with these new spots is they don’t carry the same ending that Dodge launched at the Chicago Auto Show with much fan fare.
That’s a mysterious move since Dodge used the ending in this first Durango spot back in February hailing the model’s return

A missed branding opportunity.
The new Durango is much improved from its predecessor and deserves a more truthful ad campaign.  And just saying “the SUV is back” doesn’t make it so.

MAKING TRACKS: Tim Boutorwick is now a product insight strategist as a contract staffer for Fallon’s Detroit office on the Cadillac account. Boutorwick has more than 20 years of auto agency experience. This is his third time in the last 5 years he’s worked on Caddy, first at Leo Burnett Detroit in Troy and then at Modernista, Boston.

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.

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!

Ram Ropes Cowboy Theme: “Guts. Glory.”

Chrysler Group’s Ram truck brand (formerly part of Dodge) is using cowboys and the Old West for its new multi-media ad campaign. The work, from Richards Group in Dallas, introduces the new tag “Guts. Glory. Ram.” It replaces “I am Ram.”
The first :60 national intro commercial, dubbed “Code of the West,” sets the stage for the blitz

Too bad the pickup doesn’t show up until more than half-way into the commercial.
Cowbows aren’t a new Big Idea for truck advertising. It’s almost a bad cliché.
Chevrolet was big on it. Here’s one from Campbell-Ewald for the 1997 model Silverado

Even GM sibling Pontiac used cowboys – for the Montana minivan – in the late ’90s to try to be more appealing to men. D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles’ Detroit-area handled and used Robert Mitchum to narrate:

In probably the most bizarre use of cowboys to peddle a light truck, Mitsubishi had this spot for the 1998 Montero suv from G2, Santa Monica, which soon after, not surprisingly, lost the account

Who doesn’t love cowboys and the romance of the Old West? It’s rugged and oh, so American. And what’s not to like about actor Sam Elliott’s rich voice narrating the Ram commercials?

Olivier Francois, Chrysler Group’s French-born CMO, has a penchant for edgy work that generates buzz, a la Chrysler brand’s 200 Super Bowl “Imported From Detroit” commercial with Eminem. The official word from Francois on the new pickup work is : “the Ram Truck brand has always had the guts to perform and innovate – today, it continues to live by those rules and conducts. The brand’s outstanding craftsmanship and beliefs are delivered in this campaign by using the rustic Old West as the perfect juxtaposition of past and present American values; a time when hard working and well-crafted man-made machines were a must.”
That American craftsmanship idea, and the tone of the Ram ads, also run deep in the automaker’s Jeep advertising “The Things We Make, Make Us,” introduced a year ago for launch of the new Grand Cherokee by Wieden + Kennedy in Portland.
Ram does take the cowboy thing to a new level. This work is generally visually arresting and interesting. That said, the big question is can this cowboy theme be sustained for Ram? Will it last as long as “Like a Rock” for Chevrolet?
I think not.


has gone to California and joined Activision as exec VP and CMO from Volkswagen, where he had been VP of marketing since December 2007. We wondered here earlier this spring about his future at VW after Tim Mahoney split from Subaru of America to be VW’s CMO and chief product officer. Ellis was to report to Mahoney.

Follow  me on Twitter: @jhal2001

MINI Drives into Television

Since arriving back in the USA nine years ago, MINI hasn’t spent a lot on television advertising. And compared to larger automakers, MINI hasn’t spent much at all in measured media- well under $40 million annually- the amount the big guys can easily spend just launching a single new model.
But this year the BMW-owned brand is shaking up its media plans and pushing into television.
Tom Salkowsky, MINI’s marketing manager since December, told me the brand will keep its “heavy pace” of TV advertising that started this year with its first Super Bowl appearance and continue through the rest of the year.
How heavy, you might wonder?
Salkowsky says MINI had more than 4,000 TV spots in the first quarter alone.
Salkowsky, who has been with BMW since 1997, says moving into TV now lets MINI communicate to a larger audience and gets the word out about the bigger Countryman model.
The best of the bunch by far is this one, called “Flow,” as part of the launch of the new Countryman

This commercial is pure MINI. Filmed in Milan, Italy it captures the European flavor of the car, its sense of adventure and fun-to-drive nature. It grabs your attention. Bravo to BSUR in Amsterdam, MINI’s global agency, to the agency’s Creative Director Jason Schragger and the clients for recognizing exceptional work. This commercial also ran in lots of other markets worldwide. You can check out a “behind the scenes” look at how CG was used to make “Flow” here

BSUR also created :15s for the Countryman launch in this country that were getting heavy play on TV here in the first quarter. Here’s one called “Flight Attendant”

Not as impactful as “Flow,” but gets the point across that the Countryman is bigger than the original MINI model, has four doors and all-wheel drive.
Makes you wonder where this leaves MINI’s US creative shop, Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners in Sausalito, California.
Salkowsky says Butler, Shine is still plenty busy doing all MINI’s collateral, events, point of purchase stuff and media planning. (IPG’s Universal McCann buys MINI USA’s national and spot TV and radio).
Okay. But there’s no arguing that BSUR’s work is heads and shoulders above MINI’s 2011 Super Bowl commercial for the Countryman, dubbed “Cram it in the Boot”

Butler, Shine totally missed the mark with this spot. We get the “boot” joke, but bet there’s lots of Americans who don’t know this is the Brits’ word for car trunk. The spot is an embarrassment for the brand and a total waste of ad dollars. It was crass and not relevant to the brand – just bad advertising.
Then again- the client approved it.
MINI isn’t abandoning other mediums. It had a massive, nine-panel outdoor in Times Square for the Countryman that faced three city streets

MINI at 42nd St & 7th Ave

That just came down recently, after getting 40-million-plus impressions for each of the two months it was up.
MINI, known for events, is also considering driving events pitting the Countryman against key rivals, including the VW Tiguan, Kia Soul and Suzuki SX4.
Something MINI USA is doing seems to be working because the brand reported that its new car sales jumped by 41% in the first quarter to 12,241 units.

NEW ROADS: Congrats to Molly Peck, the new ad director at Cadillac, succeeding Kim Brink. Peck had been Chevrolet’s national ad manager since February 2007.



TV host Mike Rowe is back, front and center really, in retail TV ads (aka sales event,) for the Ford brand in new work breaking tonight from TeamDetroit in Dearborn. The work will introduce new incentives that don’t look to be as generous as the ones that just expired.

Automakers’ ads for sales events can be awful. But Ford and some other carmakers, are starting to figure out a much better way of messaging. Thank heavens!

As Ford was trying to figure out how to make its spring sales ads stand out, “the answer was in our backyard” and his name is Rowe, said Matt VanDyke, director of Ford’s marketing communications in the U.S. The difference this time around is Rowe, the creator and host of Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs,” was there to interview all 30 people who got to drive a new Ford for a week and interview them on camera for their candid reactions. Most were filmed in Southern California and the focus is on fuel economy and technology, areas where VanDyke said Ford is a leader.
Ford picked the participants via Polk registration data and as simply as approaching people in parking lots.
The marketer ended up with 16 TV commercials, mostly :30s, unless regional dealer ad groups want to use :15s. In one spot, Kevin, a Honda CR-V owner who drove an Escape, is impressed that the Ford suv gets better mileage and he’d like to keep it for a year.  A Toyota Yaris owner who drove a Fiesta calls it “a complete upgrade” from his current car.”
At an event in Dearborn today, VanDyke said during the four years of “Swap” ads, consumer perception of Ford quality has improved by 46%; safety by 34%; innovation by 60% and environmental by 63%.
Those are some pretty impressive stats.
And if you don’t believe Ford’s stats, Nielsen Global Automotive President Lois Miller calls Ford’s “Swap” ads “very, very effective.” She cites Nielsen research showing that Ford’s “Swap” ads are 48% more memorable than ads for average auto sales events.
She notes that Lexus’ December To Remember; Honda’s Mr. Opportunity and GM’s Red Tag sales event ad efforts also saw some decent bumps in effectiveness.
Yes, folks, there’s a lot to be said for consistency in ad messaging. All the aforementioned campaigns for those automakers’ sales events carried the same themes for multiple years in a row. Duh! Today’s time-restrained customers are too busy to pay close attention to an advertiser’s new slogan. That’s if they even remembered the old slogan. Don’t assume people are hanging on your every ad word.
Nielsen’s Miller said people remember Ford’s ads more when Rowe is in them, plus 80% associate “Swap” ads with Ford. Nielsen research of its 2. 5 million online consumer panel also revealed a 30% jump in people’s intent to visit a Ford dealer in the next 30 days as a result of seeing the ad. “That’s huge.”
Ford’s 2010 “Swap” blitz is among the finalists in the Best Sales Event category for Nielsen’s annual Automotive Effectiveness Awards. The winners will be announced at the New York Auto Show on April 20.
The new “Swap” blitz will run aggressively for 60 days on TV and radio, regionally and locally. Regional dealer ad groups can pick which models they want to use. The online component features an extended-length ad on a variety of sites, including Google, AOL, Yahoo plus, and
This year’s Spanish-language TV commercials of “Swap” will feature Chilean-born star Cristian de la Fuente for the second year in a row. Ford’s 2010’s ads with Fuente are a finalist in Nielsen’s Spanish TV Advertiser of the Year.
Former fashion model Boris Kodjoe stars in the African-American “Swap” ads.
Rowe, who has also been in Lee jeans’ TV spots, first hooked up with Ford in spring 2007 TV commercials for the F-150 pickup inviting viewers to “Take the Ford Challenge.” Later that year, he narrated commercials that introduced the “Swap My Ride” ad blitz that showed owners of non-Ford products after they drove a Ford.
Ford didn’t use Rowe in “Swap” ads in 2008 or 2009, as the entire U.S. auto industry pretty much hit the bricks. But he did appear in other Ford ads during those years and appeared in “Swap Your Ride” ads in 2010.
Here’s one from a year ago for the Transit Connect

After a nasty turn in the barrel for a good part of the last decade, Ford is doing a lot of things right these days. There’s still some work to be done on changing perceptions, but the much-improved products and fuel economy are starting to click with buyers.

MAKING TRACKS: Kim McCullough is the new brand Vice President at Land Rover North America, proving you CAN go home again. McCullough is overseeing marketing communications and product planning, reporting to Gary Temple, President of Jaguar Land Rover North America. Her last gig, since August 2009, was assistant general manager at the western region of Toyota’s Lexus arm. She’s one smart cookie who was instrumental in the launch of Toyota’s most competitive Tundra pickup several years ago. McCullough knows Land Rover because she worked there from 1997 to 2001 in marketing and has ad agency experience.

KUDOS: To Subaru of America and its “Love” campaign, for taking home the 2011 Silver Award at the Advertising Research Foundation’s David Ogilvy Awards for Excellence in Advertising. These honors are based on advertisers who produce research-driven, successful ad campaigns. Ya gotta love it!