Revolutionary Chevy sets tone

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Kim Kosak has climbed a few rungs of the ladder at General Motors Corp. since arriving there out of college in 1989 as a market research analyst at Chevrolet, and her latest ascent places her back at the division in which she began.

Ms. Kosak became general director-advertising and sales promotion in June 2003 after GM created a new layer of ad management at Chevrolet, GM's largest division accounting for more than half of the auto giant's U.S. sales. She returned to Chevy after a successful four-year stint as advertising and promotion director of sibling Cadillac.

The challenges at Chevrolet and Cadillac were very similar. "Both are great American brands and both needed image enhancements," says the Detroit area native.

Mr. Kosak worked with Chevrolet's longtime agency, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., to develop the new umbrella "American Revolution" brand campaign. She says her mission is to get Chevrolet on people's radar screens. Launched late last December, the blitz is big, bold yet with a clean, simple look. Ads from the campaign got more than 200 airings during this summer's Olympics TV broadcasts.

Traffic to chevrolet.com is up 50% since the campaign started, and prospect leads to dealers from the site are up 170%. "It's the new products and powerful campaign that are getting the message out to the customer," she says.

Chevrolet sales rose by just 0.9% through August, to 1.81 million units, vs. a year ago, according to Automotive News, a sibling publication of Advertising Age. Yet to come this year is the launch of its all-new 2005 Cobalt small car.

Chevrolet's car lineup still needs a boost, despite the success of the redone Malibu car line and sibling Malibu Maxx sport wagon. While Chevy car sales are up this year, GM has generous incentives above the industry averages, and several models are heavy in fleet sales to rental car companies and other businesses. Its truck sales dipped a bit, mostly due to slides in sales of big, gas-guzzling SUVs, the Suburban and Tahoe.

Ms. Kosak brings a record of success at Cadillac, where she called her brand repositioning task "daunting." When asked how she raises the creative bar at ad agencies, the 2004 Power Player says marketers need to give very clear strategies to their shops. But, Ms. Kosak adds, "you partner with them. You can't use a stick." She says she acted as a partner with Campbell-Ewald when presenting "American Revolution" work to GM brass.

The challenge ahead includes succeeding in two crucial new-model launches this year-the Cobalt, which replaces the Cavalier car line, and the 2005 Uplander sport van, which replaces the Venture minivan. Both outgoing models are long in the tooth and not very competitive in their segments.

It's too soon to call the "American Revolution" a coup.

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