Conan O'Brien's TBS show proving more than friendly to brands

By T.L. Stanley on Wed Nov 17 2010


We've now seen the first brand integration into Conan O'Brien's late-night TBS talk show, and if this is any indication of how marketers like AT&T and Microsoft will share the screen with the lanky host, we say bring it. General Motors, one of the flagship sponsors of the new 11 p.m. chat fest, got a cheeky throwback segment Monday to introduce its "20 Pine Tree Air Fresheners in 20 Nights" sweepstakes. The contest gives away 2011 Chevrolet Cruze sedans in which to hang those "mega-fragrant" deodorizers. With help from audience members and/or ringers in the crowd, O'Brien and sidekick Andy Richter did their best Monty Hall (or would it be Carol Merrill?). They chatted about the 10 airbags, Bluetooth capability, MP3 player and other features of the car, which sells for "less than $17,000 MSRP," while admiring the on-set vehicle. O'Brien said it's so well-equipped for its size that it's nicknamed "the Seth Green." Advertisers including Coca-Cola and News Corp. are paying between $30,000 and $40,000 for 30-second spots on the show, according to The New York Times, putting it in league with rates for Leno and Letterman. Those who'll get product placement and the Coco treatment should consider it money well spent.

Shed a tear for sad, uncool, obsolete old fool Mr. Goodwrench

By David Kiefaber on Thu Nov 11 2010


After almost 40 years of toting the GM logo around, Mr. Goodwrench is retiring. Or being laid off, depending on your perspective. Either way, the troubled auto company is replacing him next year with separate "certified service" concepts for Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. GM has decided to focus on its remaining nameplates because a) they're all strong national brands, and b) GM's name is mud after the bankruptcy hearings and legacy of administrative incompetence. Plus, as David Kiley points out: "There isn't actually a lot of grease and wrench-work going on with new cars today. If something goes wrong on a vehicle, it usually requires fixes to the on-board computer. 'Goodwrench' doesn't quite reflect the technical sophistication of today's vehicles. Maybe 'Mr. Goodchip' would be more appropriate." I must admit, it's a little sad to see him go. Maybe Jay Leno will resurrect Mr. Badwrench in tribute. He's earned that much, I think.

How Toby Barlow enticed Goodby to come to downtown Detroit

By David Kiley on Thu Oct 28 2010

Palm Building_Andrew When Goodby, Silverstein and Partners reports its profit-and-loss on its new Chevrolet business and it's a few bucks shy of expectations, Omnicom's financial department can blame Toby Barlow, chief creative officer on the Ford account for Team Detroit. Huh? After Goodby won the GM account last April, Jeff Goodby and his partners began looking for office space in downtown Detroit. GM's chief marketing officer Joel Ewanick told his two new agencies, Goodby and Minneapolis-based Fallon, that he wanted them in downtown Detroit, not out in the suburbs. Omnicom, meantime, is gagging on excess office space in Troy, Mich., well North of Detroit where BBDO's offices were that serviced Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chysler until last Fall. "Joel wanted us in Detroit, but so did I," said Goodby. "Detroit is a real city, and we want to be part of it, not out in the 'burbs." Omnicom loved the idea of stocking the office with well over 100 Goodby employees despite the fact that it had already sold off furnishings. Toby Barlow, who lives in the MexicanTown section of Detroit and is a big booster of downtown Detroit, drove Goodby around town on a personal guided tour—restaurants, rib joints, pubs and the historic neighborhoods. Ultimately, he led Goodby to the Francis Palms building (pictured), a historic Beaux Arts structure on Woodward Ave., across the street from Comerica Park and Ford Field and few doors down from the Fox Theater. The Fillmore Theatre is in the bottom floor of the building. By virtue of the ballparks nd the theaters, it is the most vibrant part of Detroit, which is struggling with its economy and image. The other downtown option Goodby looked at was GM's headquarters building, The Renaissance Center. Fallon took that option, occupying space held by Publicis Groupe sister agency Digitas, which has lost most of its GM business to IPG's MRM.  "Toby was great. And I'm really happy with the choice," said Goodby. "When we had Saturn [between 2002-2007], I wasn't here a lot, but I'm going to spend a lot of time in Detroit, and downtown is the place to be." Goodby has already reached out to Detroit's College of Creative Studies, a leading design school, to teach some classes, and he has ideas about working with Barlow about improving the image of the city through advertising and marketing. "We want to be part of this community," says Goodby, who says the decision to take its own space created "some tense conversations" with his parent company. Blame it on Barlow.

Chevrolet drives into 'Hawaii Five-O,' along with defunct Mercury

By David Kiley on Tue Oct 12 2010


General Motors' Chevrolet division has a product integration deal with CBS and its new hit series Hawaii Five-O. Before I hit on the absurdity of Monday's episode, and how GM factored into the plot, let me take a minute to express my sadness that Ford did not take the opportunity, as it did back in the 1960s with the original show.
  Not only did Steve McGarrett drive big black Mercury cop cars in the original, but the show was filled with Fords driven by bad guys, politicians and the other cops (Chin Ho, played by Kam Fong, and Kono played by Zulu ... why did they change the actors' names anyway?). McGarrett drove a 1967 Merc Marquis, a Merc Park Lane Brougham and then a 1974 Merc Marquis until the show wrapped in 1980. Yes, they had Steve driving a 6-year-old car. I can recall one bad guy who drove an awesome Ford Bronco open-top SUV.
  It's not like Ford could have re-upped with Mercury for the new series. The automaker announced this year that it is phasing out the brand. Still, in the second episode this year, Mercury got a nod when young Steve was in the garage of his just-killed father. In the garage, there was a car with a cover on it. Steve partially pulls the sheet off the nose of the car to show the Mercury name above the grille. That scene has no other purpose but to pay homage to the cars Jack Lord drove in the original. Indeed, actor Alex O'Loughlin, who plays McGarrett, will be seen restoring the old Merc as a sub-plot.

Continue reading "Chevrolet drives into 'Hawaii Five-O,' along with defunct Mercury" »

What's in a name? Chevy ponders question (again) with the Aveo

By David Kiley on Mon Oct 11 2010


In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the latter utters the infamous line: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet."
  That pretty much sums of the attitude of General Motors president Mark Reuss, who has yet another model-naming debacle on his hands. GM is trying, like Ford, to create a roster of global model names. The current problem on the table is Aveo, the little, cut-rate, slow-as-a-Rascal rental car Chevy now sells as its entry-level car (starting price: $11,965). An all-new and pretty respectable Aveo is due out next year. It looks and performs better than the current model in every way. It is called Aveo in other markets. But Reuss is contemplating a name change for the U.S.? Why? He says people aren't sure whether to pronounce it "a-VAY-o" or "A-vee-O" (rhymes with Fabio).
  At GM, naming meetings are the worst, according to insiders. The talk and the numerous PowerPoint presentations (you can't go to the bathroom at GM without a .ppt presentation) revolve around the cost of establishing a new name versus the baggage of the old name. Most meetings are guaranteed to have 50 percent on one side and 50 percent on the other. The most recent example of this was the Buick Regal. For most baby boomers, the dictionary meaning of Regal is "flaccid rental car. Also see: Uncle Morty's car from the '80s with the weird interior cloth that reminded us of Aunt Rose's couch … the one with the funny smell and color that had no name."

Continue reading "What's in a name? Chevy ponders question (again) with the Aveo" »

GM suggesting you fly the rocket-like 2011 Corvette to the moon

By David Kiefaber on Wed Jul 14 2010

General Motors broke this new spot for the 2011 Corvette on TV last night—the nameplate's first TV advertising in some five years. Created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the ad modestly compares the vehicle to a rocket ship. One probably costs as much as the other nowadays, so at least they have that much in common. Also, GM has announced that anyone who buys a Corvette Z06 or ZR1 has the option of building their own engine for it, something GM calls the "Engine Build Experience." Autoguide pegs this offer, and the spot, as an upscaling of the Corvette brand, but I think it's just the opposite—both promotional ideas are, with varying degrees of subtlety, nostalgic nods to America's once-great manufacturing sector. If anything, they're trying to make their expensive yuppie sports car more approachable for working-class people. The Engine Build Experience also outsources some of the labor to the consumer, something that many brands love to do, but since there are plenty of gearheads around who like working on cars, it's not as manipulative as it seems. In any case, GM is definitely trying to get across that all four of Corvette's tires are firmly on the ground.

Rewarding Detroit pitcher with a Corvette pays off nicely for GM

Posted on Wed Jun 9 2010


It had all the makings of a classic YouTube/viral/hey-did-you-see-that moment. Many moments, actually—with Detroit's Armando Galarraga pitching a perfect game, having it ruined by a bad call on the final out, finishing the game unfazed and winning a new Chevy Corvette for his effort. Later, the offending umpire broke down over his mistake—another video clip played and replayed. You might think the winner here is Galarraga, who's now the poster boy for sportsmanship. And you'd be right. But there's another beneficiary of this wacky MLB situation: General Motors. The marketer racked up $8.9 million worth of exposure from last Thursday's game through Sunday for that one gifted sports car, courtesy of the hashing and rehashing through media channels, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and every other form of communication far and wide. That's the estimate from Joyce Julius & Associates, which calculates sponsorship value. GM sat out out last season but returned as a Detroit Tigers sponsor this year. Timing, as they say, is everything.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

GM still riding with 'Transformers 2,' but they're not going as fast

Posted on Thu Jun 11 2009

So much for General Motors turning its back on Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. This first TV spot blending the upcoming Paramount flick with the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro just launched (directed by Transformers filmmaker Michael Bay), with print, online and in-theater ads still to come. Though the automaker is in the throes of bankruptcy, it's still advertising its new muscle car, which reprises its starring role as Bumblebee in the Transformers sequel. There had been widespread reports this spring that GM would back away from the second film, but studio insiders say the deal has just been scaled back—focusing on a single car brand instead of the fleet of nameplates that advertised the original. (The second movie has a bunch of GM cars in it, but there will be Transformer-themed ads for the Camaro only.) But don't cry for Paramount. Additional marketing heft is coming from LG Mobile, 7-Eleven, Kmart, Burger King and Hershey, which has transformed Bay into a purple M&M with a five o'clock shadow.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Hollywood taking swine-flu outbreak, GM's problems personally

Posted on Tue Apr 28 2009

The swine flu continues to ravage Mexico, where upwards of 150 people have died. And General Motors is hemorrhaging jobs and shuttering brands, including the legendary muscle-car maker Pontiac. But what does it mean to Hollywood?
  Various trade publications today are pointing out the real victims here—namely, the X-Men Origins: Wolverine premiere in Mexico City, which has been canceled—canceled!—as has star Hugh Jackman's planned publicity stop there. First the piracy and now this? It's just too much. Let's just hope nobody describes it as a business pandemic. As for GM's announcement, TV networks and film studios will see ad money and bad-ass chase scenes slip away without the Firebird and its brand brethren. Not to be totally flip about the entertainment trades—they know their audience, and Variety does give an interesting run-down of starring roles for Pontiacs going back decades, like the Trans Am that Burt Reynolds drove in the Smokey and the Bandit trilogy (see the video above), the G6 sedans that Oprah gave away to 276 shrieking audience members, and the Solstice roadster that got creamed in the first Transformers flick. That's all history now.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

General Motors says put on that rally cap and believe in miracles

Posted on Fri Apr 3 2009

It's time to put on your rally cap, people. Sure, the economy is three runs down in the ninth with two outs. But General Motors sees a turnaround on the horizon. This is the theme of its new ads, which tell America to think positive—that America is ready for a rebound. This upbeat message is a far cry from the depressing "We're still here" whine out of GM's Saturn division. As a die-hard New York Mets fan, I have been known to don the rally hat in key situations (generally to little avail). However, considering Sports Illustrated actually picked the Mets to win it all this year, perhaps GM is onto something.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein



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