Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Look To Thyself General Motors

In an earlier post (see February 9th in the Blog Archives), I questioned the thinking of the advertising decision makers at one of General Motor's most important brands...Chevy. Their Super Bowl commercial , for the Chevy HHR, was a contest winner, but it made no sense to me. The message was inane and the execution...juvenile. Now, I know that it wasn't directed at me. They were aiming at Gen Y; apparently 'Boomers', still the largest mass of market out there, are obsolete, relics, passe. Just get them a baseball cap, a big old Chrysler and send them on their way to retirement in Florida. I mean, they couldn't possibly want an HHR . Why would they want a Heritage High Roof; a car that, by name and design, is a tip of the hat to something from the Boomer's youth? (Consumer Reports said that it's styling was 'inspired by early 1950's Chevrolet Suburbans'.) Do they think that the older market wouldn't be interested in a fuel efficient small SUV? I guess so. I'll bet that segment of the market buys it's fair share of Subaru Foresters and Honda CRV's.

Betsy Lazar, Director of Media Operations at General Motors, in her keynote speech at RAB said that things were changing at the auto giant. They're not looking for simply the best package if 3o seconds spots anymore...they want station involvement. Oh...and they sliced their traditional ad budget by 600 million dollars! So, if I've got this right, they want a lot more for a lot less. In a recent interview she must've mentioned new media fifty times! (I didn't really count but it was a lot) OK people...that's where they're taking that 600 million. They're putting their money in V.O.D.'s (Video On Demand) and web ads. They're enamored with the 'new media' and they think that traditional media, like the Baby Boomer, is old school.

My feeling is that they're confused and a bit desperate. They seem to believe that their overall business slump is due to poor advertising performance! I say, look to thyself GM. For years you shafted the buyer, in the name of profit. For example, let me tell you my little GM story. I had a 1986 Olds Delta 88 (brand new at the time) that had to have the steering replaced four times...before I sold it (with low mileage) in 1992. Let's see...four complete rack and pinion steering replacements in just under six years...doesn't that sound like a poor product to you? At the time I wasn't the exception...I was the rule. Things were so bad at General Motors, board member Ross Perot, offered to buy the entire corporation and then put millions more into the company to fix it. The other board members, more concerned with their own self-interests, rejected his proposal. Mr. Perot resigned from the board and walked away. General Motors continued to make sub-standard cars into the nineties. By then, I guess their shareholders had had enough and were demanding that GM offer a more competitive product.

Maybe that's why they're going after the younger demo, because they know what they did to the more seasoned market. Their greed and poor business practices pushed us away. They forced me to do something that I said I'd never do...buy a Japanese car...a Honda. Since then I've bought several and they've all delivered on quality.

Instead of blaming radio and TV for their sad state of affairs; turning to an unproven advertising delivery system and embracing an MTV approach to their message, GM should think about introducing something like a "Come Back To GM Warranty"... aimed at the hundreds of thousands of people, like me who have had some bad experiences with the auto maker. Make it so ridiculously generous...something along the lines of 200,000 miles, covering every part in the car... former owners will have to give them another chance. And trust me...it won't put them into bankruptcy. They still can afford it. What will put them into bankruptcy is an ill conceived approach to advertising.

Will they get the message? I doubt it. In the meantime, radio executives, if you want some of that 600 million then I'd suggest putting together some packages that will give them a nice presence on traditional radio and a 'new media' opportunity on your station's website...and good luck.

That's what I think...what are your thought?

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