GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz Talks Ad Strategy

GM Vice Chairman Bob LutzIf there are two things Americans don’t like, it’s paying taxes and not being the best at something we invented. Unfortunately, the government’s recent takeover of  General Motors handed us both of these bitter pills. As a result,  the GM brand has suffered tremendous damage, with many people being openly hostile towards the company.

Is it right for us to direct our anger at GM for not recognizing the changing auto market? Sure. Is it productive? No.

As painful as it may be for some to hear, now that “We the People of the United States of America” own a 61% share of General Motors, it’s in all of our best interests that the company succeeds. Part of that success will come from GM’s future marketing efforts.

On August 11th, at a GM press event, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz talked about the changes that are coming to GM marketing, his opinions on GM’s current commercials, and his desire to address the perception of a quality gap between GM and foreign cars.

Quoting from the Detroit Free Press:

Bob Lutz, in his new role as GM’s chief creative guru, already is shaking up advertising and marketing to close what he has long argued is a huge gap between the quality of GM cars and trucks and the public perception of them.

Asked how advertising will change, he contrasted a current Buick ad — one he doesn’t like — with a new Chevy ad.

The “Photo Shoot” TV commercial, which shows a Buick LaCrosse and an Enclave and a snooty film director at a fashion model pool party, reminds Lutz of old GM ads when its products weren’t so good.

“There was a natural tendency,” he said, “to do charming stories of the family washing the car and the kids putting the beach balls in the back, to give the viewer a kind of a warm feeling. That’s one type of advertising, and you’re going to see way less of that.”

By contrast, Lutz likes a new Chevy spot in which ex-football star Howie Long compares the fuel economy of several Chevy models favorably with Hondas, before cutting to a Honda product GM can’t compete with — a lawnmower. Lutz said the ad dispels “this commonly held myth that in every category the Japanese are the masters of fuel economy, when in fact they’re not.”

Here’s the commercial Bob Lutz doesn’t like.

Unfortunately, I cannot post the commercial Bob Lutz does like without a “written approval from GM.” But here it is via YouTube.

I agree with Lutz’s ad strategy, but it’s a strategy that should have been implemented a decade ago when fuel-efficient imports first started hitting the roads. Nevertheless, it’s no use looking in the rear-view mirror (automobile pun intended).

As an American taxpayer, you’re part-owner of the company. What do you think of the spots? Is Bob Lutz right to gear GM marketing away from high concept ads and toward direct comparisons?

Rob Frappier is a marketing copywriter and blogger working in the social media sphere. To reach Rob, visit his blog, or follow him on Twitter.