Hollywood's Ally At GM

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Name: Steve Tihanyi

Age: 45

Who he is: Tihanyi is the general director-marketing alliances & regional operations, General Motors Corp. In this jack-of-many-trades capacity, he oversees GM's major sports and entertainment partnerships with such institutions as the NCAA, USOC, William Morris Consulting and major studios and product placement outfits.

Where he's from: The native Canadian joined the advertising and corporate marketing staff in 1999 where he spearheaded the restructuring of the company's field promotional organization. Prior to that, Tihanyi was a member of GM's Oldsmobile division as national merchandising manager. Tihanyi also has spent time on the agency side, including a stint at Ross Roy Communications beginning in 1987 where he worked on Dodge, Jeep and Eagle business until 1998.

What he's done: In 1998, Oldsmobile did a significant promotion around the "X-Files" film. The goal was to attract a younger target audience for the launch of the Intrigue because dealerships "were dying on the vine because the consumer base was eroding." The program delivered an ROI of over 50,000 test drives and 8,500 sales. "It showed the power of the right kind of entertainment property. It was a watershed moment."

%%PULLQUOTE_RIGHT%% What's next: Will 2004 be a pivotal year as far as marketers greenlighting more branded entertainment projects? "Let's be honest. We understand what's looming on the horizon. The question is will we jump into the pool and take a swim. That takes a special mindset. You really have to make the commitment."

Stock-in-trade: "We've got the resources, brainpower, and right product mix. And I really think we're looking at business the right way. We tend to be conservative but we're starting to see some energy here in terms of people thinking differently."