Auto Engineer Having More Fun in Marketing

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Liz Vanzura recalls being good in math and science in college, graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from General Motors Institute.

She started working at General Motors Corp. in 1982. After a series of jobs in product planning and research, Ms. Vanzura landed her first real marketing position six years ago as brand manager of the Pontiac Sunfire entry-level small car.

"I quickly found out it was more fun in marketing," she says.

Ms. Vanzura went on to get her MBA from Harvard University and left GM in 1997 to join Volkswagen of America.

Making top ads
As VW's ad director, she and her team worked with Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide, Boston, to create some of the most envied and honored ads in the auto industry.

Ms. Vanzura considers the 1998 launch of the new Beetle, "that icon in North America," as her proudest career achievement to date. Advertising Age named her to its 1999 Marketing 100 for that successful car launch that helped boost the overall VW brand.

At VW, Ms. Vanzura reported to Dave Huyett, VP-marketing, for several years until he retired last fall. Mr. Huyett says his former associate was able to adapt to the lean staff at VW, "where everyone does 10 million things," from GM. In the time leading up to the Beetle launch, "she was able to clearly focus on a brand at a time when we didn't have a lot of money" to advertise, Mr. Huyett says.

He describes Ms. Vanzura's main strength as "understanding what a brand is and [being] able to work with the agency on that."

Ms. Vanzura left VW at the end of 2000 and was hired back by GM in February as ad director of its Hummer brand.

GM acquired the rights to Hummer in late 1999 and is about a year away from launching its first model. Ms. Vanzura, now 36, is working closely on Hummer with a familiar face -- Lance Jensen, the former VW copywriter from Arnold who formed Boston ad agency Modernista! early last year. GM awarded Modernista! the estimated $35 million Hummer account in 2000.

"We're designing the real essence of Hummer and how to connect with the unique owner body, which is passionate, rich, cool people," says Ms. Vanzura. "I used to do cool, young people" at VW.

One of team's oldest
Ms. Vanzura figures she's probably one of the oldest on her brand team at Hummer, which she dubs "like a little island inside GM."

The mother of two young children, Ms. Vanzura likes the flexible schedule GM offers her, which includes some working from home.

"I feel lucky," she says of her Hummer post. "It's the second time I get to work on a cool brand."

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