Chevy, Olds try ready-made ads

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The national ad agencies for General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet and Oldsmobile divisions are now creating ads for individual dealers that convey a brand look and message consistent with national ads.

The move is interesting since GM dealers may use any agency for their business as long as general ad guidelines are followed. GM infuriated many dealers last year when it eliminated regional dealer ad groups. But the automaker told the retailers they would get more GM co-op funds for their individual operations.

Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, started the movement last year when the agency created a "Promotion in a Box" for the Oldsmobile Silhouette's top-of-the-line Premier minivan. The box contained ad samples and a form allowing dealers to order ready-made ads for TV spots, newspapers, billboards and direct mail from Burnett. Dealers customized the ads -- which had the same look as the national effort -- with their store names.

SANGUINE OVER SILHOUETTE

Peter Langenhorst, then brand manager of Silhouette, said the 500 biggest sales-volume dealers of Oldsmobile's roughly 2,800 retailers used Burnett's "Promotion in a Box." He raved about results, saying he forecast 10% of all Silhouette's 1999 sales would be Premiers. Instead, Premier's tally ended up at 30%.

Now brand manager of Chevrolet's Venture minivan, Mr. Langenhorst said he's readying a nationwide promotion with local ads that will be sent to dealers. Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., will create the test-drive promotion ads tied to the minivan's Warner Bros. model.

But Chevrolet did ads for individual dealers before Mr. Langenhorst's arrival. Campbell-Ewald created the so-called Gearbox with ads for Chevrolet dealers last year. The boxes, which cover monthly deals on specific Chevrolet models, inform dealers about upcoming incentives or other promotions.

The Gearboxes allow dealers "to easily link in with what we're doing" nationally, Mr. Langenhorst said. "It's all brand-driven, so any promotion we do is in the Gearbox."

The ad manager for a Chevrolet dealer in Massachusetts, who asked not to be named, said he doesn't use Gearbox ads because they focus on just one model at a time. He said he doesn't have the budget to advertise a single model. But he added the Gearbox "is good for a heads-up on what Chevrolet's going to advertise nationally."

A spokesman at the Troy, Mich., office of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles said the agency doesn't create ads for individual Cadillac or Pontiac dealers.

That's also true of the Troy office of McCann-Erickson Worldwide, for Buick dealers.

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