GM Extends Corporate Ad Effort With New Spot

Brand Campaign Scores Well With Younger Car Buyers

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Struggling General Motors Corp. is pleased enough with the results of a corporate advertising effort that it is breaking another corporate spot Thursday night on CBS' "Survivor."
General Motors is breaking another corporate spot on CBS's 'Survivor.'
General Motors is breaking another corporate spot on CBS's 'Survivor.'

The commercial, titled "Now and Then," had "high likeability" among all viewers, but resonated particularly well with those younger than 35, with 83% having a positive response, said GM's Bob Kraut, director-brand marketing. The target for both spots is people who are neutral about GM -- they have neither positive nor negative feelings about the automaker, he said.

Boosting buyer consideration
The first commercial, which broke during the Winter Olympics and aired through last week, also boosted buyer consideration for GM products. "We have to get people to like GM and be more open-minded," Mr. Kraut said. He added that he believes consumers liked the first commercial is because "it doesn't make any demands on people."

Both spots alternate historical footage with shots of various GM models. On-screen titles in the new spot pick up the now-and-again theme: "Then ... peace, Now ... love, Then ... speedways, Now ... runways, Then ... swing, Now ... bling."

The new commercial includes shots of Buick's current pitchman, Tiger Woods, and Carmen Electra and, from the past, Marilyn Monroe and the late actor-impressionist Frank Gorshin. The commercials are like a "60-second GM history lesson" for young people, "one part history and two parts show and tell," said David Moore, executive creative director at McCann Erickson, Birmingham, Mich., which created the spots.

Online execution
The Interpublic Group of Cos. agency is working on an online execution that will allow people to click on the video while it's playing to learn more about a specific scene. Mr. Kraut said that video would be pushed to various non-GM Web sites as soon as it's finished. He's considering listing when the the new ad is scheduled to air after consumers asked for that during the first commercial's flight.

GM's proprietary research closely mirrored the findings of consultant CNW Marketing Research, which found 83% of those who intended to purchase a new vehicle under age 35 and 70% of those over 50 reacted positively to the first spot. CNW said in February the figure is rarely above 40%, and the 30% range is typically where GM rates.

Restating earnings
The auto giant is trying to recover from a disastrous 2005, which Chairman-CEO Rick Wagoner called "one of the most difficult years in GM's history, driven by poor performance in North America." GM said late yesterday it had restated its first-quarter results to show earnings of $445 million from an earlier reported loss of $323 million. The change reflects a shift in the way GM will account for a health-care settlement deal with the United Auto Workers union and other adjustments. GM said it came in the wake of discussions with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

GM's North American auto operations posted an adjusted loss of $5.6 billion last year and it cited, among other things, higher marketing and advertising costs, lower production volumes and a weaker sales mix. In North America, the world's biggest auto market, GM's unit sales slipped by 3.1% in 2005 compared to 2004 despite generous sales' incentives.

Early this year, the automaker shifted its U.S. strategy, saying that in 2006 it would significantly slash advertising on umbrella, multibrand incentive programs such as last summer's employee discounts, and instead push individual product launches and key models. GM also lowered prices on most of its models in a bid to move away from hefty incentives.

GM spent nearly $30 million in corporate advertising on broadcast and cable TV networks in January and February, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In calendar 2005 the marketer spent $192 million for corporate advertising on those two outlets.
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