Chrysler Could Benefit From Obama's Marketing Touch

An Ad Age Editorial

Published on .

Those rushing to defend Chrysler -- and the Constitution and the American way of life and freedom -- from the terrors of Barack Obama need take a deep breath and check the facts.

Not long after it was learned that the Obama administration -- via the U.S. Treasury's auto-industry task force -- had halved Chrysler's marketing budget, the comments started flowing in fast and furious. They ranged from the moderately upset to the downright delusional, with some of the more florid minds imagining a vast Saul Alinksy-inspired socialist conspiracy to shred the constitution and destroy capitalism once and for all.

Obama had no right, they all agreed, to tell poor Chrysler what to do with its marketing.

We dislike government intervention in business as much as the next capitalists, and regularly use this space to make clear our contempt for ham-fisted attempts by politicians to win votes by meddling with a marketing world that they often don't understand. But in this case, sadly, Chrysler gave up its right to manage its own interests without interference when it required taxpayer money to save it from oblivion.

The fact is, the government would be hard-pressed to do a worse job of marketing than the company itself did. Steven Landry, Chrysler exec VP-sales and marketing, said in a statement that the company's planned marketing effort "gives us the opportunity to reinforce that it's business as usual and demonstrate a bright future ahead for Chrysler."

That's right. Chrysler wanted to spend $134 million to get out a "business as usual" message. Wasn't it business as usual that landed the company in bankruptcy in the first place?

During his own campaign, Obama proved to be a very savvy marketer with a better-run marketing campaign than anything coming out of Detroit. He seems to have a natural ability to recognize and stick with a solid marketing message and to keep his focus on the horizon rather than a current storm.

Yes, Obama may give too much ground to the United Auto Workers. And no, Obama doesn't have a marketing degree or real-world business experience.

But the truth is, even with an army of M.B.A.-carrying marketing professionals, Chrysler could do much worse than Obama -- and it has.

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