OLDS TO BUCK GM TREND, PLANS DIVISION BRAND ADS: EFFORT LIKELY IN 1ST QUARTER 2000, SAYS FRANCIS

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Divisional branding campaigns may appear to be heresy under General Motors Corp.'s brand management system, but Oldsmobile is planning one.

The Olds divisional advertising may appear in the fourth quarter although the first quarter of 2000 is more likely, said Karen Francis, Olds' general marketing manager.

"We feel now we're at a point where we have our entire product portfolio redone," Ms. Francis said. "We need to treat Oldsmobile as a brand as well."

BY THE WAYSIDE

Divisional ads have pretty much gone by the wayside since GM started brand management in 1995. GM has poured the vast majority of its marketing efforts into developing distinct personalities for each nameplate, and not its divisions.

Chevrolet and Buick are the only divisions that have done umbrella ad campaigns since 1995. And, at Saturn Corp., not part of GM's brand management reorganization, Saturn is the brand.

In recent years, Oldsmobile commercials from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, downplayed the Olds name and built, for example, the Aurora brand.

The newest family member is the Alero, introduced last year with the ad tag, "Start something."

Ms. Francis said the Alero is getting the bulk of Oldsmobile's ad spending this year. She had the Alero tagline moved to all Olds model ads in January, when the division made its first Super Bowl buy since the late 1980s.

The executive now describes "Start something" as "a divisional effort."

The new divisional campaign will link each vehicle back to the brand Oldsmobile, which the division hasn't done in recent years.

AS MUCH AS 15% OF BUDGET

When her GM bosses approve ad budgets for the 2000 calendar year, Ms. Francis expects to use 10% to 15% of the ad budget for divisional ads.

Oldsmobile spent $242 million on all vehicles last year in measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

"To be good marketers, you have to know what influences purchase decisions-and absolutely the divisional brand influences purchases," she said.

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