GM Looking to Reboot Chevrolet Advertising Campaign After a Slow Start

General Motors Co. (GM), a year after Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick joined the company and overhauled its marketing, is again retooling some of the creative work for Cadillac and Chevrolet.

GM is looking to reinvigorate its “Chevy Runs Deep” ad campaign because some of the creative work has not resonated strongly with consumers and some ads don’t explain what the slogan means, Ewanick said in an interview this month. Cadillac is also revamping ads to boost sales.

Ewanick’s newest changes to Chevy and Cadillac advertising show GM, the largest U.S. automaker, is still trying to find the right formula to rebuild its brands. Since taking over in September 2010, Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson has made marketing a priority by promoting Ewanick and taking a personal interest in some of GM’s advertising, especially for Chevrolet.

“‘Chevy Runs Deep’ has maintained the brand but it hasn’t really moved them in any direction,” Alexander Edwards, president of the automotive division of Strategic Vision, a San Diego-based market research firm, said in a telephone interview. “The campaign has not boosted showroom traffic.”

GM shed its Hummer, Pontiac and Saturn brands after emerging from bankruptcy in 2009. GM also sold Saab so the company can concentrate resources on Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC. Ewanick was hired by former GM CEO Ed Whitacre as vice president of U.S. marketing in May 2010 and promoted to global chief marketing officer by Akerson in December.

Marketing Changes

Cadillac replaced agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty with Minneapolis-based Fallon Worldwide in July of last year after Ewanick joined GM. He also hired San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to take over the Chevy account.

The “Chevy Runs Deep” campaign is intended to emphasize the brand’s U.S. heritage and make an emotional connection with consumers, Ewanick said. Chevy will air the ads that have worked the best for the fall U.S. television season, he said.

“Where we fall down is, we have not done a good job of bringing that idea to life,” Ewanick said. “We haven’t really elaborated what we mean by that.”

The ad campaign, which debuted in October during the World Series, has done little to boost shopping for Chevrolet, according to data from Edmunds.com, an auto-shopping website based in Santa Monica, California.

U.S. vehicle sales of Detroit-based GM rose 16 percent through July, according to Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. GM’s market share increased to 20 percent, from 19.2 percent a year ago.

Returning Soldier

In October, before the campaign began, 11.6 percent of shoppers on Edmunds had considered Chevrolet vehicles. Consideration rose throughout the fourth quarter to as high as 12.6 percent in January. That was likely due to the introduction of the new Chevy Cruze compact, Jessica Caldwell, an Edmunds analyst, said in an e-mail. Chevrolet consideration fell to 11.8 percent in July, Edmunds said.

Ewanick said that one of the best ads of the campaign came out Memorial Day weekend. In an ad called “Salute”, a soldier comes home from duty in a Chevy sport-utility vehicle to his two sons, who are waiting on the front porch.

“Bringing heroes home for generations,” the ad’s narrator says. “Just another reason Chevy runs deep.”

SpikeDDB, GM’s black ad agency, created another spot called “Table of Brotherhood.” It shows a table stretching through neighborhoods around the U.S. with people from different races and ethnic backgrounds all sitting at it. Audio from Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech is included.

Ewanick said Akerson told him the ad was powerful and should be used more extensively. Ewanick plans to air the spot more often and may also use it outside the U.S.

Product Attributes

Chevy will also use the Volt as a centerpiece to advertising this year, Ewanick said. While the car sells in limited numbers, the plug-in hybrid draws interest that brings attention to GM’s other models, he said.

Cadillac is also moving to focus on product attributes, said Don Butler, vice president for Cadillac marketing.

GM’s luxury brand has emphasized image advertising that portrays the brand as “red-blooded, American luxury.” In an ad called “Arrows,” actor Laurence Fishburne says that the Cadillac CTS-V coupe’s styling was inspired by an archer drawing its bow. The car then outruns hundreds of arrows.

Butler said those ads haven’t been as effective as product- focused spots. Cadillac ran ads starting during National Football League preseason games on Aug. 27 saying Ferrari uses a Cadillac suspension technology called Magnetic Ride Control in its cars.

“The conceptual stuff didn’t resonate as well,” Butler said in an interview at a media event on Aug. 29. “We went from arrows and raindrops and have moved to talking about specific hardware.”

“Part of it is learning as we go and finding out what works and what doesn’t work,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Welch in Southfield, Michigan at dwelch12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net

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