GMC revises ad tactics for 2000

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General Motors Corp.'s GMC all-truck brand is charging into the millennium with new advertising approaches to launch its 2000-model vehicles. Those strategies include a significantly higher ad budget for Yukon XL; the addition of magazine spreads; more multicultural advertising; grouping models in ads; and a wider commitment to the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team.

A key challenge in 2000 is to build awareness for Yukon XL. The sport utility replaces the popular Suburban, which will still be sold by sibling brand Chevrolet. In recent years, GMC barely advertised the Suburban because the name benefited from Chevrolet advertising, said Courtney Moody, assistant brand manager of marketing for Yukon.

Indeed, GMC spent $287,000 in measured media for Suburban during the first nine months of 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting. GMC's Sierra pickup, redesigned for the 1999 model year, got the biggest GMC outlay in that period--$55.5 million.

Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide, New York, created Yukon XL's TV and print ads that broke in mid-January. In a 30-second spot, the 1999 Suburban morphs into the 2000 Yukon XL. The XL which stands for extra large. The model is also getting a significant magazine push, which includes spreads and page ads, Ms. Moody said.

That's a switch for GM, which in 1998 questioned the effectiveness of spreads and nearly stopped buying them altogether.

But big SUVs "played best in spreads," Ms. Moody said, adding that prospects for the premium SUVs spend more time reading magazines than watching TV.

ATTRACTING FEMALE BUYERS

Late in the first quarter, the XL's smaller version, the Yukon, will be launched. GMC will advertise the two together in spreads and page ads, Ms. Moody said. Hoping to attract more female buyers, GMC plans to add more women-oriented books in March and April.

Castor Advertising, New York, is working on Hispanic-targeted TV spots for Yukon XL. Ms. Moody said that campaign will run in eight key markets part of an overall brand initiative to step up advertising to multicultural buyers.

For its Envoy sport utility vehicle, the marketer launched a campaign Jan. 29, via GMC's African-American agency, Wimbley Group, Itasca, Ill. The TV campaign compares the Envoy's attributes to that of U.S. Track & Field Olympic-medal hopeful Marion Jones. She will appear in Envoy print ads, direct mail, on GMC's Web site and in personal appearances.

TRACK & FIELD

Envoy will also be title sponsor of two upcoming, televised track and field Olympic qualifying events. The deal is an extension of GM's long-term sponsorship of U.S. Olympic teams and its media deal with Olympic broadcaster NBC.

"When we tried to imagine who the physical manifestation of the Envoy was, the perfect fit was Marion Jones," said Envoy Brand Manager Tony DiSalle. "Marion and the GMC Envoy are the embodiment of where beauty meets brawn."

GMC's products are among the top 10 models new vehicle buyers shop for, said George Peterson, president of consultant AutoPacific. GMC sold 521,294 trucks last year vs. 450,783 in 1998, according to Automotive News.

Copyright January 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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