Marketing 50

Pontiac

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Pontiac marketing Director Mark-Hans Richer isn't afraid of bold marketing stunts. And why should he be? His most brazen to date is paying off handsomely: this fall's giveaway of 276 new G6 sedans on Oprah Winfrey's season premiere show.

The car giveaway, which had a retail cost of nearly $8 million, Mr. Richer says, generated $20 million in unpaid media coverage and PR within the week it happened, not counting the follow-up videotaped visits Ms. Winfrey pays to audience members, showing how winning the car changed their lives.

Since arriving in 2002 as director-advertising and sales promotion, Mr. Richer has been trying to elevate General Motors Corp.'s performance brand. Promoted to marketing director at Pontiac in April, the Chicago native says his mission is to get the brand on people's radar and make it more relevant with high-profile marketing plans. Until the G6 arrived, he had been trying to create "a bridge" to Pontiac's cooler product lineup vs. its aging models.

Mr. Richer credits his inside team and agencies (Publicis Groupe's Chemistri, Troy, Mich.; Vigilante, New York; Digitas, Boston; and Accent Marketing, Coral Gables, Fla.) with developing a series of integrated, non-traditional marketing programs. He encourages the agencies to emotionally engage customers with Pontiac and its vehicles, dubbed internally "product fusion marketing."

Pontiac's efforts included a 30-minute G6 infomercial on cable TV last spring. The G6 advertising includes spots on CBS' "Survivor" and is featured in a weekly online poll about the show.

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