OLDS MINIVAN, SPORT-UTE GET $30 MIL IN ADS EACH: GM DIVISION READIES STREAM OF REVAMPED OR NEW VEHICLES

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This year could be the most important for Oldsmobile since its founding in 1897.

The division of General Motors Corp. is introducing a slew of new and updated vehicles in an effort to reposition its stodgy image to appeal to upscale, younger import-intenders.

Olds will begin advertising for the new Silhouette minivan and Bravada sport-utility vehicle next week, with each brand getting an estimated $30 million in media support this year.

VARYING SUPPORT IN PAST

That will be a big improvement from the past. Olds never advertised previous Silhouette models; ad spending for Bravada wasn't consistent, having dwindled from $16 million when it debuted in June 1991 to as low as $1 million in 1994.

Overall, the division is expected in '97 to easily match or surpass the $115 million that Competitive Media Reporting said Oldsmobile spent in measured media last year.

Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, uses humor in the commercials for the minivan and SUV.

Silhouette's three TV spots feature monkeys and penguins to show off the minivan's "creature comforts," such as dual audio and climate control for the front and back seats.

Character actor Steve Hytner, best known for his ongoing role as a struggling comic on "Seinfeld," is the pitchman in the three Bravada spots. The actor appears as an SUV know-it-all riding as a Bravada passenger.

"People don't think of Oldsmobile selling trucks [referring to Silhouette and Bravada], so we had to take a different tack in the tone of the advertising," said Advertising Director Mike Sands.

The tone of Olds' sedan advertising has become more sophisticated and dramatic, he noted. Olds' first sedan campaign broke March 21, for the new Cutlass. That campaign will get an estimated $30 million push.

$30 MIL FOR NEW INTRIGUE

This summer, Olds will spend about $30 million advertising the all-new Intrigue, which the carmaker hopes will reach units sales of 100,000 next year.

Olds' dealers reacted positively after seeing the new advertising last week at dealer meetings in Las Vegas.

"They were very well-received," said an Olds supplier who attended the gathering.

That's good news for Burnett. Dealers have criticized the agency's Olds work as recently as last summer (AA, Sept. 16). That's about the time Burnett changed

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