GM Oil Ad A Non-Controversy Run Amok

Posted by: David Kiley on June 18, 2008

Talk about a non story. Both Automotive News [see story below in the extended blog space] and some of the auto blogs have reported that General Motors was “breaking” with Big Oil by way of a TV ad that was to say,” “Dear Oil,” a new TV commercial begins. “We’ve had this great relationship for many years. We think we will both be a lot happier and healthier if we see less of each other.” The commercial from McCann-Erickson was to debut on NBC’s “Meet the Press” June 22, Benoit said.

The ad was talked up by GM marketing exec Katherine Benoit at the meeting of the American Advertising Federation.

And the controversy was…? Um….uh….hmmmmm.

The point of the ad was to say that GM’s cars increasingly have to use less oil…electrics, smaller engines, gas cars that get much better fuel economy, hybrids, plug-ins.

But the story was conflated into this whole other thing; That GM was going to war with the oil companies, or something. The auto companies and oil companies do not exactly lobby DC in lockstep. Take the ethanol issue. GM pushes for more Federal subsidy and for government to compel oil companies to support ethanol at its stations, and the oil companies fight that.

A top GM exec once told me that he was giving a presentation on hydrogen power. An ExxonMobil exec walked up to him afterward and said…”You know, gasoline is a great source of hydrogen (asserting that GM should more aggressively pursue a system that cracks the hydrogen out of refined gasoline). The GM exec responded…”And so is water. I think water is going to be the better way to go.”

Now, GM is saying the ad may not run.

This is practically a case study in a non-story actually pushing a company to alter its course. The coverage of the speech has been puzzling to say the least.

[The original Auto News story].

GM BREAKS With Big Oil In New Ads

ATLANTA -- General Motors is sending a "Dear John" letter to big oil.

Katherine Benoit, GM corporate marketing director, told attendees at the American Advertising Federation meeting this week that the automaker is launching a corporate campaign this month that addresses the oil-price issue head-on, albeit with a tongue-in-cheek twist.

"Dear Oil," a new TV commercial begins. "We've had this great relationship for many years. We think we will both be a lot happier and healthier if we see less of each other." The commercial from McCann-Erickson is to debut on NBC's "Meet the Press" June 22, Benoit said.

A Chevrolet campaign focused on green issues also is about to launch, and GM will tout its corporate environmental message as part of its NBC Olympics sponsorship, Benoit said.

GM has been boosting advertising for its fuel-efficient models since last year. But Benoit said the automaker suspended ads for its E85 models, partly because of the availability issue, and is backing options other than corn or other food products to make ethanol, which is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Part of GM's energy and environmental unit will check and confirm all its green marketing claims, Benoit said. "You have to make sure that the story you tell plays out."

Reader Comments

David Sedam

June 18, 2008 10:21 AM

I worked for GM but retired under Delphi and in all those years while working I watched Toyota gain market shares to the point they will become #1 Auto maker real soon if they aren't already. My point is, why didn't GM's Exc. and marketing people take note what Toyota was doing and why they were taking market shares away from GM. Reading the article about Oil companies and GM, I have always believed they were in bed together and they kept telling GM that things will be OK that oil is the best fuel available. Well once again GM took there word and now how many GM truck/suv plants are closing and how many GM/Delphi jobs are being lost because GM believed there bed partner. What GM and the other Auto makers should be doing is lobbying Congress to allow more off shore drilling and let more drilling in the US so we don't have to depend on foreign oil. Wake up GM before you will be just a memory in the past because if you don't there sure to be alot of Toyota's,Honda's and alot of foreign cars on US roads.

Albert Sionni

June 18, 2008 2:25 PM

NO!! Everyone wants to drill offshore, thats awesome, reduce our dependency on foreign oil. At the time though we need to be hard corps into alternatives, that is what is going to stop our dependency. As far as Toyota, Honda, and Mazda they are the ones that are employing US workers. No wonder they have the market share... they deserve it.

Joe Cali

July 6, 2008 12:39 AM

This is the kick in the rear we needed 20 years ago, but now it may be too late. The facts are 10 years ago there were many countries pumping oil. Now the number has dropped and countries like China and India are putting more drivers on the roads every day. Years ago in China it was 1 out of 100 people drove cars, now is 1 in 70, we are talking a billion people in china. The oil companies are not going to stop pumping, it is supply and demand. Most of the new oil fields after a few months drop from 100% capacity. Off shore drilling is a band aid. There is only so much oil, can't people realize that. There is no more wiggle room, if there is any incident like a war, or a blown fuel pipe line, the effect will be felt immediately. We are an oil society; I cannot name anything that does not have a connection to oil. 60 years ago the Germans had cars that run on wood fumes. They did not burn the wood to make steam they heated the wood and it gave off fumes, the fumes were burned as the fuel. Goggle VW Wood Burning car. Also the Germans invented Synthetic oil. We started using it in the 80's during the fuel crisis. You can't tell me in 60 years we could not improve on those creations. I believe the way to go is Hydrogen. The reason being it is easy to make, kids are building hydrogen assist generators for their cars and getting 10mpg more when used on a gas car. Go to Ebay and see the kits. I believe Sears, BJ's Costco, Home depot all should get into Hydrogen Generation. You don't have to be an oil company to sell or make Hydrogen. They have the networks and the money.
A hydrogen engine is the same engine as you have in your car except the fuel injection system is different. I have seen a guy take a carburetor from a fork lift that ran on Propane. Placed the Carburetor on an old Caddy and attached a fuel line to the carburetor from some hydrogen he made. This was on Green Machines on the Discovery Network. The Caddy ran fine. Easy to make and easy to install on an internal combustion engine. Just some secrets the oil companies or the car companies did not want us to know.

The problem is can we change gears to new technology fast enough?? I hate to say it but if we don’t and there is a shortage things are going to get very ugly very fast.

A word of advice that I tell my kids and family. Never go below a half tank of gas, use the half tank mark as your empty mark. You may need that fuel to get home.

I am the guy that wrote the book on how to put Porsche engines into the Classic VW bugs. So I know a bit about cars. My name is Joe Cali.

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