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Some Advertising Fallout and Benefits at GM To Come

Posted by: David Kiley on June 1, 2009

No question that General Motors has an issue going forward as it works to emerge from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

Vice chairman Bob Lutz, who will retire at the end of the year, calls GM’s biggest problem a “reputation deficit.”

Here are a few top line thoughts about what we might expect in the coming months.

1. An ad campaign breaking from GM next week that addresses its past mistakes, but very much lets the public know that it is still in business and ready for the big fight.

2. A gradual shift in ad dollars away from brands being sold or phased out to benefit Chevrolet and Cadillac in particular. Chevrolet will look to go toe to toe with Toyota in ad spending by 2010.

3. A campaign for Buick that will launch in June to benefit the launch of the Lacrosse sedan, as well as the Enclave SUV.

4. Nothing been imparted on this front by GM execs yet. But I will be gobsmacked if GM does not hold some kind of an agency review for its Chevy business, which has been at Interpublic Group’s Campbell-Ewald since FDR was in the White House.

Not that Detroit needs any more unemployment. But C-E has done an awful lot of mediocre work for a very long time. Agencies that should be cued up to give GM all the new ideas and fresh thinking it can stand should include: Deutsch (now handling Saturn and GM corporate); Goodby Silverstein & Partners (winding down its Hyundai work; Kirshenbaum & Bond, NY (BMW digital but has presented some great strategy to auto clients like BMW and Hyundai, but hasn’t caught the bouquet yet); The Martin Agency (Geico and Walmart…this is a smart agency that could lead strategy for a big client like Chevy and figure out how to staff it in Detroit without losing the out of town perspective).

Reader Comments


June 1, 2009 2:36 PM

Advertising agencies that do work for GM, Ford or Chrysler MUST have a significant presence in Metro Detroit. There is no question about that. The last thing GM needs is "creative" ads made by Audi-driving east coasters who wouldn't be caught dead in a Chevy. Mazda did the right thing and used a Detroit agency (Doner) and it seems to have paid off at least in the long run. People in SE Michigan know cars better than anywhere else in the country. There needs to be a knowledge and respect for the brand and the automobile and NOT to treat the account as just another company.


June 2, 2009 3:21 AM

GM's fall though expected comes as very sad news.Things just seem to be going from bad to worse.Wonder when normalcy will return.
Incidentally there is an interesting website that is specifically dedicated to recession victims.It offers help and discusses all issues related to recession- It’s worth a visit!


June 2, 2009 1:59 PM

Going to a smaller more out of the box thinking agency (The Martin Agency) may be one of the few things that might save a company with such a HUGE “reputation deficit”. It will need to be done quick though. After going through the closing of a company myself I can say that time moves quicker than anyone wishes.


June 6, 2009 12:39 PM

The problem is not only the AOR but the clients themselves. Often times, they are limited in imagination by tradition, by mediocrity, etc.

But it would be a good idea for Chevy to at least go through an agency review. Even if C-E stays, it puts them on notice to come up with something new and iconic.

I also expect that the "New" GM will find some new marketing people. There are plenty of good choices out there; GM needs to have the guts to bring in some fresh voices.


June 8, 2009 2:13 PM

Patrick, I have to disagree with your assessment of where GM's ad agency should be located. The people of SE Michigan obviously do know cars but the problem is, they don't know what the rest of the country is feeling when they think of GM. Secondly, people in SE Michigan have a bias that rest of do not. I would say many have had their heads in the sands for the last 30 years. GM should consider using a group from the coasts that DO drive Audi's and other foriegn cars. They need to get away from the NSACAR driving group and learn how to sell to the Yuppies.

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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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