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GM Criticizing Ad Flop?

Posted by: David Kiley on May 24, 2006

buick ad.jpg

Now there was a speech and conference I’m sorry I missed. General Motors executive director of global market and industry analysis Paul Ballew, as reported by Ad Age’s Jean Halliday, addressed a direct marketing group in Michigan and said: “We’re like Ad ferrets on amphetamines.” Reported Halliday: “He was making the point that the key to auto advertising is consistency of brand message — and it’s more critical than ever in today’s fractured media environment where consumers are bombarded with marketing wherever they turn.”

Check please! I have been beating up GM for its hideous ad strategies for years, especially its practice of allowing the marketing director of the moment to up-end brand stategies when they walk into the job. Or, it lets even long-term brand chiefs change ad taglines and campaigns like I change my socks.

I’ve reported this before, but it’s fun to see somneone else jump on the bandwagon. As Halliday points out: “GM’s Buick brand has had five taglines since 2000. Saturn and Pontiac each have had four since 2001 and Saab has had three since then. The auto giant’s Cadillac brand has stayed with “Break through” since early 2002 and Chevrolet has stuck with “American revolution” since 2003. GMC’s “Professional grade” has been around since September 2000, and Hummer’s “Like no other” has defined it since GM launched the brand in 2001.”

GM’s woes have a certain amount to do with things like healthcare costs, a weak Yen, etc. But let’s not underestimate the automaker’s capacity over the years to completely screw up its brands.

Ballew is not a marketing guy. He does talk to the media from time to time about GM’s sales incentive strategies, production, inventories, etc. But if he is on this bandwagon, where are the people who actually do control GM’s marketing budgets and stategies above the brand managers?

What do I know? Right? Though GM’s sales and marketing chief Mark Laneve, responding to a criticism I leveled against what Buick is doing these days with its advertising, told me I was “over-informed” about GM’s advertising. Whatever that means.



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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