An Report From Shanghai


Chevrolets Set to Roll Off Chinese Assembly Lines This Winter

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SHANGHAI, China ( -- Ending one of the most complex advertising agency reviews in China's history, General Motors Corp. has selected McCann Erickson Worldwide to
'See China Today in a Chevrolet' could well be the ad slogan, as a premiere icon of American industrial culture is readied for promotion and sale as a mass-market vehicle in the People's Republic.
launch Chevrolet as its main mass-market brand in the world's fastest-growing car market.

McCann declined to comment and Shanghai GM executives could not be immediately reached, but executives familiar with the review confirmed McCann's victory.

Advertising strategy
McCann Erickson will handle strategy, creative and below-the-line marketing for the Chinese-made Chevrolets, which will appear in local dealerships later this year. Media planning and buying was not included in the appointment, according to executives close to the situation. McCann, part of Interpublic Group of Cos., and Shanghai GM are discussing the possibility of sibling Universal McCann handling media.

"GM wants to make Chevrolet a mainstream brand in a very competitive market. It's going to be a big account, but it didn't brief any of the agencies about media spending during the pitch," said one executive who participated in the review.

To overtake U.S. by 2020
China is the world's fourth-largest car market, following the U.S., Japan and Germany, even though just 7% of China's urban households own a passenger car, according to ACNielsen. Given the country's rapid economic development, China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the world's No. 1 car market by 2020.

Chevrolet cars manufactured by Shanghai GM, a joint venture between the U.S. automaker and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., will go on sale in the last quarter of this year, but the ad budget is still unknown.

GM already controls about 10% of China's car

Photo: AP
A worker welds a door in the Shanghai General Motors plant. The company has been building Buicks in China for several years.
market and appeals to upwardly mobile professional Chinese with its Buick model, whose sales are soaring by 80% a year. Rival Volkswagen has locked up 33% of the Chinese car market. Now GM hopes to broaden its appeal with locally made versions of other models, including Cadillac. Earlier this year, Shanghai GM hired Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett Worldwide after a pitch to reposition Cadillac as a must-have for China's nouveau riche.

Mass-market Chevys
But Shanghai GM's dream of capturing a significant share of China's fast-growing passenger car market will depend on the success of Chevrolet. Volkswagen controls the mass-market car segment for now, through popular models such as Santana.

GM's hotly contested advertising account review kicked off last July between six agencies: McCann; Interpublic's Foote Cone & Belding Worldwide; Havas' Arnold Worldwide Partners; and three unnamed local agencies.

Earlier this year, Shanghai GM cut Arnold and the local shops

Photo: AP
A Shanghai GM worker inspects an auto body ultimately headed for sale in what is the world's fourth-largest market for vehicles.
and held a second round between McCann, FCB and two newcomers -- WPP Group's Bates Asia and local agency Bo Pei, which has worked for Shanghai GM's compact car Spark.

China Buick sales
Although not part of the first round, Bates has handled creative for Shanghai GM's Buick model since it launched in 1997, illustrating the importance of personal relationships, called guan xi in Mandarin, in Chinese business circles.

Tense internal politics between GM and its Chinese partner further complicated the review process. Insiders said GM's American executives supported McCann Erickson, the auto giant's global advertising partner, from the start. Shanghai Automotive officials, meanwhile, wavered between FCB, Bates and the local players.