Chevy skips 'Real People' approach for new Silverado campaign

Brand's focus group ad style is sidelined temporarily

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Chevrolet is taking a stylistic detour from its four-year-old "Real People, Not Actors" creative approach with a new campaign for its redesigned 2019 Chevrolet Silverado, one of the most important vehicles in the General Motors fleet.

New ads strike an emotional tone with a music-filled, cinematic approach that is a sharp contrast to the more rational "Real People" campaign, which portrays actual vehicle buyers interacting with a moderator. The old campaign is not being shelved; new "Real People" ads are already in the pipeline, says Paul Edwards, VP of Chevrolet marketing. Chevy has previously made temporary diversions from the campaign. But the new Silverado work, which includes multiple TV ads, is a significant pivot with broad media spending support.

Edwards suggests the new campaign is in line with "Real People" because the people shown in the ads are not actors. But that interpretation will likely be lost on viewers who in recent years have been served dozens of ads in which moderator Potsch Boyd, clipboard in hand, touts specific Chevy vehicle attributes, focus-group style.

The new campaign, by Chevy agency-of-record Commonwealth/McCann, includes one spot showing a cast of diverse Silverado drivers reciting lyrics from the song, "A Little Bit Country, a Little Bit Rock 'N Roll."

The approach is "meant to signal that the all-new Silverado is designed and engineered for every facet of America," Edwards says. That includes Silverado loyalists as well as a new generation of urban-dwelling pickup truck buyers who tend to be younger and more diverse. Often, they are trading in their SUVs or crossovers for pickups, he says, because modern trucks offer the same drivability as SUVs but they also portray an image of "freedom and empowerment," he says.

One ad, called "Official Truck of Real People," plugs the Silverado as suitable for a vast range of uses, including commuting to work, hauling gear to a high-school football practice and carrying bales of hay.

Another spot called "Tailgates" leans into Chevy's 100-year-old pickup truck history, showing stuff being loaded in the back of Chevy trucks. The ad, which begins with a 1935 Chevy pickup scene in black-and-white, was shot in a way to create a vintage appearance.

The campaign will debut on TV on Monday night during ESPN's broadcast of the College Football Playoff National Championship. Later that night, the brand will appear in an integration on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" show. Also, Silverados will be shown in future episodes of "This is Us," as part of an ongoing Chevrolet product placement deal with the NBC hit show.

In addition, Chevy struck an ad deal with Amazon that puts Silverado branding on more than 7 million boxes of e-commerce goods shipped during January. Images of the truck will be shown as appearing to break through traditional brown box packaging.

"It's a new form of out-of-home for us that we've never done," Edwards says. He called it "completely non-skippable media" that is visible to the recipient and also to passersby who might notice an Amazon box sitting on someone's front porch.

The Silverado is the nation's second-best-selling full-size pickup with 585,581 vehicles sold last year, giving it a 20 percent segment market share, according to data from Automotive News. It competes fiercely with Ford's F Series, which topped the segment last year with 909,330 sales and 31 percent share. Silverado's sales were flat last year compared with 2017, while F series eked out a gain of a little more than 1 percent. The big gainer was Ram, whose sales jumped about 7 percent to 536,980 vehicles.

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