Chevy’s former ad agency of 91 years, Campbell-Ewald, was summarily dismissed a couple of months ago when GM’s new marketing chief, Joel Ewanick, appeared on the scene. He replaced them with his agency of choice, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, who had performed well for him when he was at Hyundai. The move caused a shock wave in the marketing world and around Detroit, but Goodby certainly has credibility -- "Got Milk" tops its portfolio.
The shake-up has created high expectations for the new approach to Chevy. Yet the new "Runs Deep" campaign doesn’t feel that much different than Chevy ads of the past. Worse, the new tagline has created no shortage of opinions, most of them critical.
Plenty Of Critics
Newsweek's Mickey Kaus, in an article entitled, “Let’s Find A Better Slogan For Chevy!” wrote, "'Chevy Runs Deep' appears to be yet another attempt to sell you patriotic 'heritage' -- in other words, to get you to buy an American car because American cars used to be really good and everybody drove them!"
Jeff T. Wattrick, writing on Michigan-based MLive.com, said, "Drawing on Chevy's history, however iconic, to sell the brand runs counter to GM's recent 'may the best car win' ethic. It's hard to imagine potential Cruze buyers responding to a slogan that appeals to crotchety oldsters' nostalgia for the '57 Chevy they never owned."
The rest of the Internet traffic on the issue seems similarly negative. However, when I polled my social space about their thoughts on the ads, I got a mixed bag of responses with most seeing what was good in the spots. Although there was some criticism, overall people seemed hopeful that this would – and could -- help bolster Chevy’s image.
Five New Ads
Chevy debuted the five new ads during the World Series and they continue to air, with 40 percent of their advertising budget being spent on TV. The remainder is split on print, radio, digital, outdoor and other marketing channels, according to Crain's.
The first ad is called "Anthem" and features 60 seconds of archived footage of Chevy vehicles through the years. The voice-over is handled by actor Tim Allen, the Detroit native and self-described auto enthusiast.
The next ad seems to be the fan favorite of the blogosphere, as are most ads that feature man's best friend. Hank Williams lends his voice by way of the song "Movin' On Over" and Tim Allen ends the spot with the line, "A dog and a Chevy. What else do you need?" This line begs for argument and seems wholly unnecessary, as many people will undoubtedly have suggestions on what else is needed.
The third in the series is called “Newborn Baby Comes Home.” As I have written before, one sign that you are scraping the bottom of the advertising barrel is the use of celebrities, animals and -- of course -- babies.
As if the nostalgia and "getting back to our roots" theme is not already overplayed, the fourth ad that looks back at what might be considered the best of people's memories of the brand. It’s called “That First Chevy.”
Finally, there is a spot that talks about the future. This is the one I am most interested in given that the Volt is likely the biggest news to come out of Chevy since the bankruptcy. Unfortunately, I am left with barely a glimpse of the car and few details to go on. With as much as there is to talk about with the Volt, this ad seems light on the content.
2011 Chevrolet Electric Volt Car
In all, I think you will agree that the look and feel of the campaign seems in line with what we have come to know and love about Chevy. But the big problem I see is that the line itself, “Runs Deep,” is all about them and not at all about the customer. This is a real miss in my opinion, as a tagline should capture the feelings, hopes, pride or needs of the customer.
A Lot To Gain, A Lot To Lose
From an advertising perspective, GM and Chevrolet certainly have a loud voice. JD Power estimates that as a company, GM will spend slightly more than $2.3 billion in advertising this year. Spending for GM's new Chevy advertising efforts is expected to top the $685 million the brand spent in 2008, according to GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick.
"We want to take all of the great lessons that we had from before that made GM great for many, many, many years," GM U.S. marketing chief Joel Ewanick said. "We want to put those other things that didn't behind us."
There is quite a bit to put behind. The company’s bankruptcy and government bailout has not engendered it to consumers, as GM's market share was 24 percent in 2007 and is currently hovering around the 19 percent mark.
"Are we going to wrap ourselves in the American flag? No, we're not, but we are going to wrap ourselves in the values and the character that has been part of this country for centuries," Ewanick said. "That's what we want to be."
Jeff Goodby of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners called Chevy's heritage a "tiebreaker" in competing with other automakers and said the cars are "beautiful, productive machines. We will not be successful unless we talk about that," he said.While the new spots do seem to be overly reliant on Chevy’s history and heritage, that could mean one of two things. Either its heritage represents the best of what Chevy was and is, which doesn’t really bode well for the brand. The alternative is that GM is setting us up for a long, progressive campaign where it will prove to us that what it builds today is every bit as good as what it built then. The risk for GM and its iconic brand is that the world is an impatient place with an aggressive set of competitors who may well be "Moving Forward" while GM looks back.