Mixes up new, 'old' media: GM vows to 'disrupt' its image

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General Motors Corp., which spent $2.4 billion in measured media in 2003, vows to get more aggressive with newer marketing tactics and traditional advertising as it continues on its bumpy road to redemption.

"Most people don't know how good our vehicles are," said Roger Adams in his first public speech last week as the automaker's new executive director-corporate advertising and marketing. "We're going to bring new customers into GM if we do our job right."

To change perceptions of its brands, the auto giant will spend more this year in measured media for 29 launches vs. 2003 and will increase its non-traditional marketing spending, said Mr. Adams, whose former job was general manager of the Buick, Pontiac-GMC division. "If you consider both, our spending will be way up." He declined to discuss specifics. "To change people's minds, you have to be a little disruptive," he said. "We're going to throw gas on the fire and find ways to leverage new media."

GM's planned ad hike isn't a surprise considering its model launches this year, said Jim Sanfilippo, exec VP of Omnicom Group's auto consultancy AMCI. GM needs to lure buyers from rivals to win back market share it's lost over the years. "Now GM has the wherewithal to do it with new products that are better or damn close to competitors."

GM's U.S. market share slipped to 28.3% last year vs. 28.6% the prior year; it was 33% in 1994, according to Automotive News.

GM has been trying to win back buyers via events and CRM. Jack Bowen, general director-CRM, said GM sold more than 1.5 million vehicles last year that it could tie to its CRM efforts.

Its Auto Show in Motion offers test drives of its vehicles as well as competitors. Steve Tihanyi, general director-marketing alliances, said that among those who attended, consideration to buy a GM product rose by 214%. Its surveys also found 94% of attendees would recommend GM to a friend and 69% said they were more likely to visit a GM dealer.

Mr. Sanfilippo said those results were impressive. "The question is, what would you have to spend on advertising to get the same results?"

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