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Automaker Retires Already Dead Ad Spokesman

By Published on .

DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- After a two-year run back among the living, General Motors Corp.'s ghost of Harley Earl is returning to the grave.
Harley Earl has returned to the dead.
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The auto marketer said the advertising character for Buick will disappear as of Sept. 19, when a new advertising campaign rolls out.

Resurrected two years ago
Resurrected two years ago to invoke the spirit of Buick's past design prowess, Mr. Earl was meant to attract younger buyers who tend to view the brand as stodgy.

The character was based on the real Mr. Earl, considered one of the 20th century's most influential auto business figures. After joining GM in 1927, he went on to pioneer the concepts of the bold, curvaceous auto design that changed the industry -- and the public's tastes.

Played by actor John Diehl, the cocky figure of Mr. Earl, dressed in a natty suit and period fedora, was brought to life in ads that also featured Buick's living spokesman, Tiger Woods.

The company said Mr. Woods would continue to appear as a pitchman in the brand's new round of ads.

Dropping tagline
"Buick's campaign with Harley Earl established a foundation from which to build," said Randall Tallerico, the advertising director of Buick. "Our advertising drew consumers in and encouraged them to take a new look at Buick." He also said he's dropping the 2-year-old tagline "The Spirit of American Style." Buick isn't saying what the new tagline is.

He said the new advertising will introduce two vehicles -- the brand's first new sedan in years, the LaCrosse, and the new Terraza crossover sport van -- and carry a more product-focused theme.

Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, Troy, Mich., is the agency on the account.

Buick has been struggling to attract younger buyers and redefine itself as a premium brand. In 2001, the marketer used the tagline "It's all good," a slang expression aimed to break out of its stodgy image.

Sales down
Buick sold 194,910 vehicles through July, off 1.4% from a year ago, according to AdAge.com sibling Automotive News.

The campaign breaks during the Emmy Award broadcast on ABC, marking Buick's third-consecutive year as the show's exclusive auto advertiser.

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