Chevy Dumps "Like A Rock," "American Revolution" and "Heartbeat of America" Ad Agency

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

For 90 years, the ad agency Campbell-Ewald has been Chevrolet’s go-to source for all-American ad messages, including the “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” “Heartbeat of America,” “Like A Rock” and “American Revolution” campaigns. But despite a track record of household-name campaigns, trouble has been brewing between GM and C-E for months now. In December, GM announced that C-E would focus on developing Silverado pickup ads for the Winter Olympic Games, while car and crossover advertising would migrate over to the French agency Publicis. Today, AdWeek reports that Chevy is terminating its nearly century-old relationship with Campbell-Ewald, and will move its entire Chevrolet business to Publicis. So what does this mean for Chevy’s advertising?

As you can see from one of the last Campbell-Ewald-produced Chevy spots (above) known as “We Carry,” C-E is still mining Chevy’s middle-America appeal and producing spots that walk the line between wholesome and hokey. Though this approach has been immensely successful for Chevy in the past, it may remind too many Americans of “Old GM,” where the ads were usually better than the cars. Besides, GM’s government-owned status makes C-E’s overtly American oeuvre considerably less effective. There’s no doubt that GM’s marketing and advertising forces need to have a laser-focus on vehicles and value, instead of pumping out more vague, gauzy, feel-good pap.

Not that Publicis’ work should be expected to be a dramatic departure. One of its first ads, a spot for the Chevy Malibu called “Dependable Friend” (below), has the same non-threatening, middle-class Chevy aesthetic, with more of a pragmatic emphasis on the consumer’s relationship with the vehicle than on tugging heartstrings. The downside to this approach is a tendency towards the vacuously generic, with the forthcoming ad tagline “Excellence For Everyone” highlighting just how far things look to be falling. But then, is that the fault of Publicis, or GM’s dim-bulb marketing boss Susan Docherty? We’d guess the latter, and humbly suggest that Ed Whitacre and Mark Reuss not hold out too much hope that this ad agency switch fundamentally alter Chevy’s image in the marketplace.

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  • Boyphenom666 Boyphenom666 on Apr 25, 2010

    @Rob Finfrock Okay, Rob. Then let's try this a different way. Let's say, God forbid, you're 50-something and lost your job. Let's say it takes you three or four years to get back to your old income. In the mean time, in the period before you get back to your old income, you lost your house, car, furniture, etc. You lose your entire life's work (financially speaking) due to an economic blip. Now all arguments aside of whether you had too much leverage or not, is your life's work being wiped out because you rolled snake-eyes good for the economy? I think not. I think it would be devastating for you personally. Furthermore, is America any better off because you rolled snake-eyes and you lost, but someone else is able to snap up your assets at fire-sale prices? Yeah, they gain, but is the economy as a whole better off? Remember, you lost and you lost big. All I'm saying is that it's not black and white. Using my analogy as applied to a person, I think wiping someone out who is a deadbeat is probably good. Wiping out someone who's probably productive but going through a bad patch is absolutely bad. Now, as to GM just producing just another product, I also disagree with you. Does Boeing produce just another product? With all the electronics and technology that goes into cars these days, an automobile is a pretty complicated product. Mind you, I am a rock-ribbed economic conservative of the Reagan mold, and I bought all the dogma. But if you look at who has succeeded and who has failed over the last 30 years, any objective observer has to look at our current economics and say thay are swayed against people who do things and make things and swayed in favor of people who shuffle paper for a living. In past history people made fortunes providing products or services. When in the history of mankind have people made the obscene fortunes that have been made shuffling paper? So the bottom line is that I am a free marketer, but what we have is not a free market economy. We have a gangster economy where people (Wall Street) makes their money by skimming a percentage off the top of every investment transaction. They went after Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt and their ilk, but they did something tangible. What did Eddie Lampert or George Soros ever do other then collect a pool of mone, gamble with it, and then skim their percentage off the top? But I digress. Bottom line is that these were sound companies with sound products (well, maybe not Chrylser) and NOBODY is going to walk into a building and be able to recreate them from scratch. Defense wins championships as they say and saving a strategic industry such as automotive is a smart defensive mood. You just need to step out of your Reagan-era dogma (like I have) to see that, though. Really, all the government did was be a vulture investor. They aren't going to make any money off the IPO, but they will break even on their investment and if they can squeeze another 30-years of , wages and profits out of these companies, that will be good for the entire economy.

  • Rob Finfrock Rob Finfrock on Apr 26, 2010

    boyphenom666, Government Motors isn't a federal jobs program; at least, it's not supposed to be. If that's the core of your argument here, you need to find another one. GM didn't get to where it's at solely because of an economic "blip." It was in a world of hurt prior to the economic meltdown, and would have gotten to this point eventually even if the Dow was above 14K today. If anything, finally forcing Gov't Motors to face its own mediocrity is the silver lining on a very dark economic cloud. As for putting myself in the metaphorical shoes of a 50-year-old UAW member... this is gonna sound cold, but why is it our job to care about that guy, one way or another? Does our social contract extend to feeling bad about overpaid strangers suffering the throes of a (much-needed) market correction? I'd like to think I have some empathy, but truth is if he's not family or a friend, I really couldn't care less. I've got my own to worry about. Maybe our 50-year-old UAW member should have saved some of his money, rather than allowing himself to get spoiled from making over $100K annually bolting Cavaliers together? Oh, and yes, GM and Chrysler do only make "products." You said it yourself. No matter how technologically advanced, in the end a Cobalt or Sebring (or a Boeing 777) is merely a widget manufactured to fulfill a perceived niche in the marketplace. If your product doesn't succeed, you either work to sell one that does, or die. Or now, the government-mandated third option. You cry to the feds for help. But only if you're "big" enough.

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  • ToolGuy 'Non-Land Rover' gets 2 bonus points for the correct use of carbon fiber in an automotive application. 🙂
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