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GM Torn About 'Breakup' With Oil

Automaker Says News of 'Dear Oil' Spot Was Premature

By Published on .

DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- General Motors Corp. has had a long, tender relationship with Big Oil. Then last week Advertising Age broke the news that GM was ready to publicly spurn its longtime lover. A GM executive said publicly that the automaker was planning to air a TV commercial telling oil: "We think we will both be happier and healthier if we see less of each other." The two commercials that GM is currently airing on Planet Green make it clear that the automaker is seeing other energy sources.

Now, GM isn't so sure it's going to send the televised breakup note to oil, and said it's definitely not breaking up with oil companies.

On again, off again
"It's one spot, and it's not in its final creative treatment yet," GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato told Automotive News today. "We don't know if we're going to run it."

Katherine Benoit, GM's corporate marketing director, told a meeting of the American Advertising Federation last week that the automaker was planning to air the commercial on NBC's "Meet the Press" on June 22.

Ms. Cusinato said Ms. Benoit spoke prematurely, and the commercial probably won't run this weekend because it's being tweaked and might not run at all.

Ms. Cusinato said the commercial, which begins with someone typing "Dear Oil" on a white screen, wasn't targeting oil companies but, rather, oil as a source for fuel. The commercial is part of a set made for GM by McCann Erickson, Birmingham, Mich., for possible airing on Planet Green, a channel launched by Discovery Communications that focuses on the environment.

Going green
The "Dear Oil" commercials aren't meant to sell cars, Ms. Cusinato said, but to show people GM's commitment to exploring alternative energy.

The two commercials that GM is currently airing on Planet Green are slightly less blunt, but they have probably hurt oil's feelings nonetheless, because they make it clear that the automaker is seeing other energy sources.

One starts with the voice-over "Oil. It's not going to last forever," then touts GM's investment in a company that is working to turn garbage into fuel. It ends with this: "There's more than one way to the future. That's why, at GM, we're on many roads." In another, the voice-over talks about how GM is exploring myriad ways of "solving our driving needs without placing too many demands on the world around us."
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