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Marketer Q&A With Mercedes, Volvo and Chevrolet

Automaker Leaders on Recent Successes and Upcoming Plans

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The world's top automotive marketers gathered in Detroit this week for the North American International Auto Show and the Automotive News World Congress. Advertising Age quizzed several top marketers on topics ranging from Super Bowl and Sochi Winter Olympics to new ad campaigns and agency changes. Excerpts:

Tim Mahoney, CMO of Global Chevrolet, General Motors:

Q: What's your plan for Super Bowl?

Tim Mahoney
Tim Mahoney

A: We've got two spots, two sixties. We're still a few weeks away. But I feel really good where we're at in terms of the work. We've got a plan going into it. But we also could dial certain things up and certain things down. ... The beauty of it all is Super Bowl is on Feb. 2 -- and just five days later is the Winter Olympics. You'll definitely see new work during the Olympics. It is in the style of what you're seeing now with Silverado and Malibu. It's an important buy for us. It kind of represents the one-year anniversary of the decision to go with "Find New Roads." That was locked down last year at the management conference. It was shortly after at the Grammys that some of the first work appeared.

Q: Commonwealth is your main agency but Leo Burnett has Silverado. What agencies are creating your Super Bowl spots?

A: Leo Burnett could be one. We work with, basically, Leo Burnett and Commonwealth. Could come from either shop. We're happy with the work that we're getting from both of them.

Q: What GM brands will you advertise during NBC's coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics?

A: It will be predominantly Chevrolet, but Cadillac will have a presence. You'll see work that will continue to strengthen and evolve the "Find New Roads" campaign. It's a pretty broad buy. You'll see a lot of work right from the beginning. ... "Find New Roads" fits very well with the Olympic spirit. The sense of hope. The hope that I can win. The optimism that I can win a medal. We've tapped into that.

Q: Commonwealth created the "Find New Roads" theme before you joined Chevrolet. A lot of CMOs like to start with a blank marketing page. Keep it? Or dump it?

A: I can tell you I'm completely on board with it. You get somebody that comes in new, they want to put their fingerprint all over it, right? I'm quite happy to leave that in place. The last thing we need is another new tagline, another new position. ... I think it's more than a tagline. It's a philosophy of how we bring vehicles to market. It taps into the sense of always pushing and finding ingenious ways. I think it can work at a super-high emotional level like the Olympics. It can also work right down in the trenches: "If you're looking at that car, you really ought to look at us and find a new road."

Drew Slaven
Drew Slaven

Drew Slaven, VP-marketing, Mercedes-Benz USA:

Q: Mercedes just ended BMW's two-year reign as the No. 1 U.S. luxury auto brand in 2013. When was the last time Mercedes was No. 1?

A: The last time Mercedes-Benz was the No. 1 luxury seller in the U.S. was 1999. It's been 14 years.

Q: What do you attribute it to?

A: You have to always start with the product. Without the right product, you don't get that kind of performance. The product has been phenomenal.

Q: Will you be on the Super Bowl?

A: Not this year. We're sitting on the sidelines this year.

Q: Will you keep Jon Hamm of 'Mad Men' as your voiceover?

A: We have no intention of changing. We have a great relationship with Jon.

Hakan Samuelsson, president-CEO of Volvo Cars:

Q: Why did Volvo launch a global agency review that resulted in selection of Grey, London?

Hakan Samuelsson
Hakan Samuelsson

A: We did for two reasons. There's always good with a fresh new approach and new ideas. More important, we cannot reinvent [Volvo ads] in every country. We had too many agencies and there were too many interpretations of what Volvo should deliver. ... It's much easier and more efficient if you pick one [ad campaign], do it correctly and do it so you can use it in all countries. Then locally you can have some minor adaptions.

Q: Will other agencies still work on your creative business?

A: Grey is the global agency. There will be partners (in different countries) but they will work very closely with Grey. In most countries it will be Grey. But there could be other agencies working as a sort of supplier relationship.

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