GM's Batey On Marketing Strategy, Agency Partners: 'There Is No Change'

Despite Sales Drop, Ewanick's Departure, Automaker Forges Ahead

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Joel Ewanick might be out as global marketing chief at General Motors Co., but his advertising strategies will live on -- at least for the moment.

"There is no change," Alan Batey, the Detroit automaker's interim global CMO, said today during GM's analysts' call to report a 6.4% drop in U.S. year-over-year sales during the month of July.

The drop was not unexpected, as GM sales have been slumping. The company's U.S. sales rose just 4% from January through June of this year, at a time when the auto industry as a whole was riding a 15% sales gain. GM's new vehicle market share in the U.S. was at 19.9% in 2011; it's down to 18.1% right now.

Alan Batey
Alan Batey
The company said the 6.4% sales drop in July was partly due to a 41% drop in sales to rental car companies, which it anticipated because planned deliveries occurred earlier in the year compared with 2011. Nonetheless, sales of Chevrolet brand were down 6.8% in July, GMC was down 9% and Buick was down 15%. Cadillac sales, however, jumped 21%.

Mr. Batey, Chevy's VP-sales and service, was thrust into the role of commanding GM's $3.5 billion ad budget on Sunday when Mr. Ewanick suddenly resigned under pressure, amidst reports he failed to properly vet a massive seven-year, $600 million sponsorship deal with globally popular English Premier League soccer club Manchester United.

"We've always been one team here, and there is no change in direction," Mr. Batey said. "There's no change in priorities. The team is focused on executing, and we've got a lot going on right now. . . . There really is no disruption, no change."

In reality, Mr. Batey doesn't have much choice. GM launched two huge marketing initiatives in the month of July that have significant shelf life.

The Chevy "Love It Or Return It" program, in which buyers have 60 days to decide if they want to keep a newly-purchased Chevy or return it, no questions asked, runs through Sept. 4.

And the launch of the Cadillac ATS, more than a year in the making, started its marketing run on the July 27 broadcast of the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony. GM is an Olympic sponsor and has more than 100 spots planned to run during the 17-day Olympics.

Asked if he was making any evaluations of the poorly received "Chevy Runs Deep" tagline, or with the Commonwealth Detroit ad agency that Mr. Ewanick helped forge as a combination of Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson Worldwide, Mr. Batey replied: "Simple answer is no. As I told you, this has nothing to do with our strategy. We are executing as per our plan. We have always been one team, and that continues. So you shouldn't read anything into this that we didn't announce, and there is nothing else to add to that . But are we changing strategy? Are we evaluating any of our partners? No."

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