Marketing Campaign Offers 1,000 Free Vehicles, Including Hummer and Cadillac

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DETROIT ( -- In what is believed to be the largest such promotion in the history of the U.S. automotive industry, General Motors Corp. said it will give away $25 million worth of new 2004 vehicles during the next 56 days.
The 56-day GM program will give away 1,000 vehicles from its Hummer, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Saturn and Saab product lines.
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1,000 vehicles
The company today announced the launch of a $50 million campaign that will give away 1,000 cars and trucks from its eight brands in an effort to show the American public how the corporation and its vehicles have changed for the better over the past decade.

The advertising media buy takes up roughly half the total $50 million budget, with the value of the vehicles representing the other half.

Dubbed the "Hot Button" program -- after the blue in-vehicle call button for GM's OnStar satellite communications system -- the campaign allows English- or Spanish-speaking consumers 21 years or older to go to any GM brand dearlership, sit in a designated model, provide personal data using OnStar, and instantly learn whether they have won a free vehicle.

Odds: one in 5,500
The odds of a showroom visitor winning a new car are one in 5,500, according to the company.

Prizes include a Hummer H2 sport utility vehicle, Cadillac CTS sedan, Saturn Vue SUV, Chevrolet SSR hardtop convertible pickup and Saab 9-3 convertible.

Despite 10 years of sweeping changes throughout GM's operations, including the addition of vehicle brands such as Hummer and Saab, recent research has found that only 17% of consumers know Hummer is part of GM and only 5% realize Saab is now

The promotion's 'Hot Button' name comes from the GM OnStar satellite communication system's call button.
a GM brand, said Steve Hill, director of retail planning at the automaker.

The primary objective of the 56-day blitz is to boost consumer awareness and to change their perceptions about GM, Mr. Hill said. The program is also expected to generate dealership traffic during the industry's traditionally slow months of January and February.

'Road to Redemption'
Analyst Jim Sanfilippo, executive vice president of Omnicom Group's AMCI auto consultancy, said that "everything you want in a promotion is in this, including direct mail, showroom traffic and a smart use of OnStar. GM has a lot to talk about, and this promotion is right on." He said it is a "much better idea" than GM's national, all-print "Road to Redemption" mea culpa ad campaign last year that tried to improve consumer perceptions about GM.

GM expects showroom traffic to jump an incremental 30% to 40% during the promotion, which translates to 5.5. million people visiting GM's 7,000 dealerships, Mr. Hill said. "None of this is intended to sell a car or truck today," he said. "It's intended to get GM on more shopping lists."

Mr. Hill said the advertising campaign is expected to reach 95% of the U.S. population an average of 12 times through February, translating to 1.4 billion impressions and 500 million online impressions.

Winners in ads
GM's corporate agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich., worked with other McCann units to develop an integrated campaign. McCann created a pair of TV commercials that break today on CBS and will air for two weeks. Dave Moore, executive vice president and executive creative director at the agency, said subsequent TV spots will show actual winners, although details for this part of the program aren't complete.

Four McCann units in Troy also pitched in. Zentropy created online ads and a Web site (, which went live yesterday. MRM Partners handled a 6-million-unit direct-mailing schedule to start tomorrow. Momentum created the name and is handling call center management and fulfillment, while Weber Shandwick is handling public relations.

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