GM FINDS BRANDED-ENTERTAINMENT PROJECTS CHALLENGING

C.J. Fraleigh Cites Tricky Nature of Results Measurement

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DETROIT -- Although it is allocating more of its marketing budget than ever before to nontraditional advertising formats, including branded entertainment, General Motors Corp. readily admits it finds the new projects challenging to develop and evaluate.
GM's C.J. Fraleigh indicates that developing nontraditonal advertising is more difficult than it may initially appear.



"It's not like there's an upfront," said Christopher "C.J." Fraleigh, chief of GM's Buick, Pontiac and GMC brands, referring to the TV ad-buying period for fall programming. He noted that measurement, especially for movie and entertainment partnerships, is tricky.

Spending more than Ford

Nevertheless, more than 20% of the division's marketing budget this year is being spent on events, promotions, entertainment and in nontraditional media, including the Internet, he said. That's larger than Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division, which recently said only 20% of its 2004 marketing budget will be in nontraditional media.

Currently, GM starts with a "logic flow" to try to develop measuring metrics, said Mr. Fraleigh, formerly GM's executive director of corporate advertising and marketing in North America. That involves setting goals for each program, whether to create awareness, improve brand perceptions or drive consumers to showrooms. "Sometimes you can't pinpoint it to an exact return on investment, but logically you know you should do it."

Mr. Fraleigh and his team are busy planning a series of new-model launches for Buick and Pontiac in 2005. GMC has no major launches next year. "We have a lot of nontraditional events in the pipeline," Mr. Fraleigh said, declining to give many specifics. He would only reveal that Buick will kick off some sort of test-drive tour in warm-weather states early next year to introduce consumers to its new models.

GM spent $1.06 billion in unmeasured media last year for all its brands, according to Advertising Age estimates. The automaker spent $2.2 billion in measured media last year and $1.6 billion through August of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Of GM's measured media outlay through August, $83 million was on Buick; $86 million was for Pontiac and $140 million was on GMC, according to CMR.

Shifting to nontraditional

Like other major advertisers, the auto giant has been shifting dollars into nontraditional marketing, making good on a call to action early this year from Gary Cowger, president of GM North America. He called the "old marketing model dead," and said the carmaker would do more events ad promotions, reaching consumers by "quality impressions."

And that means depending more on "outside people" to create marketing deals, including partnerships with filmmakers and TV networks.

NMA Entertainment & Marketing, Los Angeles, is GM's agency of record for movie partnerships. The automaker is also repped by the William Morris Agency.

Even so, Mr. Fraleigh said Pontiac's former relationship with director Rob Cohen in the summer 2002 promotion deal for the movie XXX led to this year's made-for-TV movie developed by Mr. Cohen. That project, The Last Ride, aired on cable network USA Network. The film was considered a hit for Pontiac, driving viewers into showrooms.
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