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GM’s Puzzling New "Reinvention" TV Ad

Posted by: Jon Fine on June 3, 2009

Finding itself in deeply strange terrain—a national icon in bankruptcy, owned in large measure by you and me and a few hundred million other American citizens—General Motors has started running a minute-long TV ad emphasizing the dusting-itself-off-and-picking-itself-up aspects of its situation.

GM is, obviously, also reaching out to consumers in other ways. But how is the ad, the one to be released in the wake of GM’s bankruptcy filing? Well, I can’t really tell if it’s the situation or the ad that’s deeply strange. I’ve been watching TV for decades and I’m fairly certain this is the first time I’ve heard to term “cost structure” in an ad. (UPDATE: Slate’s Seth Stevenson had a much less measured response to this ad.)

But judge for yourself:

The voiceover in full:

Let’s be completely honest.
No company wants to go through this.
But we are not witnessing the end of the American car.
We are witnessing the rebirth of the American car.
General Motors needs to start over in order to get stronger.
There was a time when 8 different brands made sense.
Not anymore.
There was a time when our cost structure could compete worldwide.
Not anymore.
Reinvention is the only way we can fix this. And fix it we will.
So here’s what the new GM is going to be.
Fewer stronger brands. Fewer stronger models.
Greater efficiencies. Better fuel economy and new technologies.
Leaner. Greener. Faster. Smarter.
This is not about going out of business.
This is about getting down to business.
Because the only chapter we are focused on is chapter one.

I guess making an ad in this situation involves playing the hand you’re dealt and all. But all this raises at least as many questions as it answers. To name but one: perhaps GM might have made some of the above changes without taking billions from the US government and going Chapter 11?

But mayhaps I’m being churlish. What are your thoughts?

Reader Comments

Kirsten Osolind

June 4, 2009 2:17 PM

GM's campaign is quite unfortunate considering that GM is using the trademarked name of our small business in Chicago named RE:INVENTION, Inc. The U.S. Trademark Registration number is #2,938,276.

Curiously, GM's new RE:INVENTION website also "Borrows" creative use of the trademark from RE:INVENTION's 5-year old website. Specifically, they are using the RE: in the same manner we do on our company website. As in...RE:imagine, RE:progress.

Compare the use of the trademark and RE: on the two websites for yourself:

Disappointing, especially since GM's marcom team knew of RE:INVENTION. We participated in GM's Chicago Auto Show Event Day for Bloggers 2 years ago.

Kirsten Osolind


June 5, 2009 9:49 PM

FYI, GM's campaign also has a significant online presence. From my online ad archive, here's some of the current creative:

Christopher Holland

June 6, 2009 6:23 AM

I have been an environmental economist for 20 years now and leaner, greener, faster, smarter are mutually exclusive. The 'faster' bit simply does not go with the other three and I also have big doubts about 'smarter' considering the mess GM is in and the fact that it is now owned by two institutions with primary responsibility for screwing the firm in the first place - big government and the UAW. 'Smart' is not an adjective that can be applied to GM over the past 20 years and I doubt if it fits now either.


June 6, 2009 11:28 AM

I'm sorry...
I don't care how much they "re-invent" their products.

Its unAmerican to be owned by the federal government and as long as I live, I will not buy a product from a government owned corporation. I will turn in my GM for a Ford truck.

In the past, large corporations (think Continental Airlines, twice in the past) went into bankruptcy and came out of bankruptcy without government interference.

Get the government out of the private sector NOW!!!!

jahan shafi

June 6, 2009 5:32 PM

mr. osolind..

quite amusing..
on a serious note, u really do need to grow up.

jahan shafi

June 6, 2009 5:35 PM

mr. osolind..

quite amusing..
on a serious note, u really do need to grow up.


June 7, 2009 10:39 AM

Did we see the same ad? I thought it was absolutely brilliant and you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who is less enamored of GM & their current situation than I. But this is really more about the ad and its effectiveness: it wasn't overtly apologetic, it deftly sets a tone for a legitimately brighter future and comes across as genuinely optimistic in these otherwise dark times. Kudos to Deutsch.

Todd C. Brizendine

June 8, 2009 12:39 AM

Nothing but more overwritten, hyper-produced Orwellian doublespeak and empty hype accompanied by sterile, corporate stock footage. Stop with the slick, transparent attempts to spin your way to success. Fire your PR agency spin doctors and use the money to hire some decent designers and engineers.

Ted McGovern

June 8, 2009 9:20 PM

I'm offended by this ad. GM could have committed to all of these processes before costing America billions. But they chose not to. Frankly, I don't think they understand what "competitive" means. I have no respect.


June 9, 2009 11:29 AM

GM you suck. I hope you fail...and take BHO with you!


June 10, 2009 10:38 PM

I cannot fathom hardly any of the comments.

GM wrote a technocrat ad to appeal to the technocrats who are running the world, the Googles, the Obamas, the Microsofts, etc. What they're selling is a story that the brand will be there in the future and isn't going to go away even if you never hear the name Buick again. They succeeded in doing that.

GM is stuck in an ass-backwards world where they still consider themselves a manufacturing company. Once they realize they aren't a manufacturing company then they can pull themselves out of it.

But I applaud them for producing a sensible ad that doesn't attempt to dumb down their situation into lines from a power ballad.

However the commenters above undoubtedly wonder how the rest of the world can be so crazy when they're so "right."


June 13, 2009 1:45 AM

I like the ad a lot, and the website is not bad, especially compared to this one:


June 14, 2009 9:46 AM

To the commenter "bellek" it is your mind set at GM is why they are now being own by the government which is owned by you, I hope one day you do get it ...(for the people by the people)You also remind me of the famous scene in

Terminator 2...
John: [Watching two little boys playing war with toy guns] We're not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.
Terminator: It's in your nature to destroy yourselves.
John: Yeah. Major drag, huh?
Mother of Fighting Children: Break it up before I wring both your necks.

GM will go belly up again because you will by a ford no support your team

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