By on March 15, 2013


When I was in the automotive propaganda business, one of the most horrifying experiences were changes on the top. CEOs could come and go without drama. Changing marketing managers meant serious trouble. It’s a bit like Indian widow-burning: He goes, you go up in flames. When Joel Ewanick came to GM, he had his old buddies Goodby, Silverstein in tow. When Joel left, the funeral pyre was assembled for Goodby.

Here come the matches.

Officially, General Motors Co’s Chevrolet brand “is consolidating its global advertising”, as Reuters reports. In actuality,  the Goodby hotshop is out, and McCann, the agency that (along with Interpublic Group member Campbell-Ewald) did GM business since the days of the hand crank, is in sole control.

When Ewanick wanted to give the job to Goodby,  Joel ran into a wall of passive-aggressiveness. A political compromise was reached. Interpublic Group’s McCann and Omnicom Group’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners created a joint venture called Commonwealth.

Picture a joint venture between the Wahhabi Muslims and the Holy Rollers and you have a feeling for how long that joint venture would last after the spiritual leader’s departure.

With Goodby gone, Commonwealth officially continues as Chevrolet’s global advertising agency. De facto, it is a counter-coup by the old cronies.

With McCann back in the saddle, expect more of the same old from GM: Cars that look like you’ve seen them ages ago, launched with recycled commercials.


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8 Comments on “Find Old Roads: GM’s Advertising Cromagnons Strike Back...”

  • avatar

    From what I hear, there’s some feeling within the senior ranks of GM that the cars have improved but the marketing hasn’t effectively told the story. I’m not sure that’s actually the problem they should be attacking right now (*cough*), but for a company that subsisted largely on marketing smoke and mirrors for so many years, it’s fair to say that they haven’t been well-served by their agencies lately, and going back to the Old Way Of Doing Things seems at least worth trying in this one case. We shall see.

    • 0 avatar

      That feeling is typical among corporate adminisphere types: “We’ve done this incredibly amazing thing, and [insert anyone else here] botched the message! We’ve got the best [product/service] on the market, and these people’s stupidity is making everyone think it’s dog s**t. We couldn’t have done anything wrong, because we’re the masters of the f***ing universe! If we weren’t masters of the f***ing universe, we wouldn’t be in charge of a multinational conglomerate, would we? This is somebody else’s f***-up, and they need to take ownership, now!”

      Whether that’s the case at GM, time will tell.

    • 0 avatar

      As a serious car guy who has owned and worked on many vehicles both domestic, European and Japanese, I have to say that GM actually does have a compelling product line right now and that it needs better marketing to convey that message. In short, I buy this argument and I can’t wait to see what comes of the change.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Just as soon as you, the agency incumbent, are broomed, the headcount painfully reduced, and you’ve gone back home to lick your wounds and scurry to find a new client, they call you.

    “Yeah, sorry about all that. How would you feel about coming back on. We’ve got a few projects that need your help.”

    And you leap back in bed with the devil. To wit, Campbell-Ewald returning to the GM roster, not for Chevy, but for Cadillac. Will it last 100 years like the last run? Time will tell.

  • avatar

    I love this kind of backstage expose from someone who really knows what’s it’s all about. As to GM marketing, suffice to say I can’t remember a single print ad or tv spot.

  • avatar

    I don’t get the ire with “Find new roads.”

    I don’t see it as being any better or worse than, “Let’s go places.”

  • avatar

    Hello Peter, whats happening? Ummm, I’m gonna need you to go ahead come in tomorrow. So if you could be here around 9 that would be great, mmmk… oh oh! and I almost forgot ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday too, kay. We ahh lost some people this week and ah, we sorta need to play catch up.

    (forgive me but this quote got stuck in my head reading the article)

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