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GM Can At Least Start With Its Advertising

Posted by: David Kiley on April 4, 2005

General Motors is going to make some changes in its advertising. Not that advertising is the biggest source of blame for the automaker’s woes. But it’s a category of problems that can be fixed the fastest.

Pontiac: This is a brand that has some potential to be a “blue-collar” success brand like DaimlerChrysler’s Dodge brand is becoming. The product is starting to show promise. The G6 is a pretty interesting car, and the Solstice roadster looks like a screamer. The GTO doesn’t look like much, but it drives like the GTO to which it pays homage. The ads have long been dreadful, lurching from one idiotic, vague positioning to another for years. Chemistri, a Publicis Groupe agency, handles it. The agency, which also handles Cadillac advertising, should lose it immediately and probably will.

Buick: I stopped leaving the porchlight on for a coherent ad campaign for Buick during the Clinton Administration. Interpublic Group’s McCann-Erickson has done Buick work for decades. Some Tiger Woods-focused ads have been okay, but the rest has been consistently awful. If GM has a genuine thought of saving this brand, get it out of McCann and into an agency that has no history with the brand. The last effort to save this brand demands new blood. Get some.

Advertising Age reports that a survey of GM’s own ad executives rated Buick and Pontiac ads a “3” out of a possible “10.”

Saturn: I saw a Saturn TV ad last night. Bleeech! This brand was once the best defined in the auto sector. Today, it has one of the best ad agencies in the business working on it, Goodby Silverstein & Partners. But it doesn’t show. I vote the problem here must be at the client. Why can this agency do great work for other brands and not Saturn?

Saab: I have seen the new work, some of which the public hasn’t, and it is terrible. Here is a niche brand with some quirks. The ads I saw might as well have been for Buick. The executive who guided the work just left to run liquor marketing at Diageo. Look for Smirnoff ads to take a nose-dive now. Interpublic’s Lowe & Partners, which also handles very good GMC ads, does the Saab work. [disclaimer: I once worked for Lowe & Partners as a vice president]. I think the agency can do better work for a smarter client.

Cadillac and Hummer ads are fine. Chevrolet ads, “An American Revolution” are on the right track, but need better executions from IPG’s Campbell-Ewald.

GM needs to seed its brands with more exciting product. But that takes years to get right. In the meantime, new ad positionings and agency assignments to help things along can be done within a few months. Get cracking.

Reader Comments


April 27, 2005 6:46 PM

I agree with all of the above... except the new pontiac ads moved me a little... Especially the one with the Kasabian song in it and showing the Solstice... finally something a little edgy.

Is the one of same ads / agency you mention above? If so, it's a sudden shift compared to their other ads. I've always hated pontiac ads. Nothing creative, horribly mixed message.


May 4, 2005 7:43 PM

Pontiac hasn't created an effective ad since they launched the Sunfire.

From Kiley: The Sunfire was a maketing or critical success?

Darrin lipp

January 9, 2006 6:38 PM

Gm does, have to get with the times on advertising like Dodge did with those two idiots, crazy about hemis.GM should be advertising about , getting the peoples trust back that they lost to toyota,honda and nissan long ago . I can't believe Gm did not advertise during 911 how they donated all that money and all those vehs. for that crisis and toyota,honda and nissan refused to help at all . that would have been perfect.

Jack Hackler

July 2, 2006 12:59 PM

GM takes itself much too seriously. The company should take a good look at itself, and stop being just too uppity about its products. We drive a Cadillac CTS, and love it. But we didn't buy it because of the advertising. Also, I think soje of the dealerships have been with GM too long--lets get some Apple Computer fun into GM ads.

Al Davis

February 20, 2007 7:02 AM

GM's advertising sucks.It also irritates because of the repetition.If GM would spend less money on ads that suck and more money on pricing thier automobiles right the first time out instead of waiting until they have to reduce price to where it should have been to start with.

Bud Swartwood

October 18, 2007 7:28 PM

The most recent General Motors Ad featuring the Malibu made me reassure myself to never buy a GM vehicle. To portray the bank robbers getting away and the police as incompetent is to reinforce values that are going bad in our society.
General Motors will continue to fail as a major player in the automotive industry as long as the ads do not depict a reason to buy a General Motors product.


August 15, 2008 11:04 AM

GM is running ads on the Olympics and there is terrific song, sung by a woman in the background....who is she and what is the song?

Kenneth A Anderson

December 18, 2008 9:25 AM

To Whom it may concern. General motors needs pasaze in there advertising. The young people, are not always the buyers it is mom and dad that do the basic buying. You need to bring back the family again. show the vacations I have an email i would like to send to you of one of your cars that hit a moose use it, to show toughness , safeness. And again what sells , values not so much sex anymore but values, in your adds say Merry Christmas Don't be afraid. I think you will be very surprised at the results of Just putting this phrase back in to your advertising. Not happy holidays. There are more people who believe than don't. Thank you. have a very Merry Christmas and a Gigantic New year.


December 29, 2008 9:28 PM

The best gift I could give to my wife is Malibu, to my daughter a G6.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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