New ideas from Chevy and Cadillac. We’re still waiting for a brand idea.

Last year, fresh out of bankruptcy, General Motors ran the first ad with Ed Whitacre.  At the time, GM rationalised the Whitacre ad by saying:

“The spot will set up a wider TV campaign featuring commercials about each of GM’s four surviving brands: Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.”  Automotive News, 9/10/09

The implication being that the brand advertising would clarify the brands’ identities. Almost three heads of marketing later, we still have yet to see an ad  or an idea that positions these brands clearly in the marketplace.  Three of the four GM brands have not put a stake in the ground telling us what they stand for (GMC is the exception and that work was done years ago).

Last week it leaked out that Chevy was going to have the tag-line “Excellence for all.” That idea has been roundly criticized as a strategy looking for an execution.  We used to describe an idea like this by saying its “strategy is showing.”  The point of course is that it lacks passion, emotion, bravado, something magical that makes you feel something about the brand, rather it’s as if research wrote the line. Chevrolet is truly one of America’s most storied and iconic brands, surely it deserves better.

Predictably the industry was quick to blame Publicis (Chevrolet’s new agency), I think that’s misplaced.

Ironically, exhibit number 1 in defense of Publicis is the new Cadillac campaign from Bartle Bogle & Hegarty.  Just announced yesterday, here are a couple of the commercials:

Nicely executed, nice music, mildly interesting to watch, but basically running footage. Certainly does not position Cadillac in a powerful way.  Another idea from another new agency that falls short of being something special.  There’s a pattern here folks.

BBH is one the smartest most creative agencies in the world.  They’ve done wonderful work for Audi in the UK so they understand automotive.  The New York office has done the work for Ally Bank (the old GMAC) which is very smart and very powerful.

So what’s going on at GM?  Two great brands in Chevrolet and Cadillac with scads of new, well-received product.  Two new agencies that are bringing huge levels of enthusiasm, smarts and creativity to their new client assignment.  And the result is….work that is “OK” at best and certainly doesn’t move the company any closer to clearly positioning its two best brands.

The good news is that on May 24th, GM’s new Vice President of marketing arrives and with him a new perspective on re-building these great GM brands.  Hopefully, soon after Ewanick’s arrival, we’ll be re-introduced to Chevrolet and Cadillac as brands that clearly stand for something…something we’d be proud to be part of.

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