By on May 6, 2017

chevrolet real people

Not since “the Caddy that zigs” has a General Motors marketing campaign spurred so many jokes among the automotive punditry and public alike. GM’s much-lampooned “Real People, Not Actors” commercials have become the target of spoof videos mimicking the often eye-rolling exploits of ordinary human beings mistaking Chevrolet Cruze and Malibu models for taut, European luxury sedans. Expect more of those.

Despite the comedic backlash, General Motors claims it has no plans to back down from the ads, ensuring more spoof fodder for years to come.

In an interview with Automotive News, Chevrolet’s vice president of marketing, Paul Edwards, defended the campaign on the grounds of consumer engagement. The ads score high in memorability, branding and likability, according to Nielsen.

The ratings company has even bestowed honors on Chevy for its campaign, handing over an award for best automotive tech ad for the brand’s “Unbranded” commercial. That’s the one where a Malibu, badge removed, elicits responses of, “It feels like a BMW” and remarks about its $80,000 appearance. Naturally, jokesters went to town on that.

“The value of a campaign, now that we’re two years into it, is that people are familiar with the tenets of the campaign,” Edwards told AN. “They’ve become more familiar with the ingredients such as this whole idea of doing experiments with real people. Ultimately, they become more familiar with the brand.”

“If we were to change the structure of the communications every month, as an example, we’d basically be starting from square one,” he added.

The first “Real People” commercials went live on April 1, 2015, eventually branching out into more competitive fare — like the somewhat controversial Ford vs. Chevy truck bed comparison test. Edwards claims the campaign will see a “freshening” when spots for the 2018 Equinox roll out this month.

How long can Chevrolet keep at it? About as long as the spots garner attention.

“From where I sit two years in, there’s no sign that it’s losing steam,” said Stewart. “In fact, every month, like I said, it continues to pick up in terms of our ability to break through and drive opinion. For the foreseeable future, we don’t have a change in mind.”

Unfortunately for Chevy, it seems spoof videos now top the list following a Google search for the brand’s ads.

[Image capture: Chevrolet/YouTube]

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64 Comments on “Those ‘Real People’ Ads Aren’t Going Away Anytime Soon: GM Marketing Exec...”


  • avatar
    toxicroach

    You think Chevy doesn’t like the spoofs?

    I’d guess they appreciate the brand awareness.

  • avatar
    011001100110

    Gawd, the ad agency has them bamboozled, and blowing smoke up chevy ass.
    These ad’s are awful. Every time I see one I change the channel, or go do something else when they come on.
    I’m not a big ford fan, but they do a lot better commercials than GM. That must say something about their #1 truck sales. GM, your ads, much like your cars have become boring…, and yes…., De Nile is just not only in Egypt.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Those Ford truck ads with the Dennis Leary voice over are beyond terrible.

      • 0 avatar
        Silent Ricochet

        “Military Grade. Aluminium. Beer. Military. Metal. Torque. Testosterone. Aluminium. Military. Hard Hats. Beer. Time to punch myself in the face.”

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      You’re forgetting Ford also did the (incredibly obnoxious) “real people” route, only they usually had the real people spouting out-and-out lies. “This Escape gets better gas mileage than my CR-V.” LOLOLOL LIIIIAR. And actually, now that I think about it, they couldn’t say “this Escape.” Everyone was instructed to say “Fusion is awesome” or “Focus beats the competition.” No the/this/that/my before the car name. So very strange. But then again, this is the company that insists you say FORD STORE instead of dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      >Gawd, the ad agency has them bamboozled, and blowing smoke up chevy ass.

      or rolling coal…

  • avatar
    carguy67

    As much as I hate them–and I do–if there’s a direct correlation between the ads and increased sales then you’d have to concede the ads are effective. I didn’t get any evidence that’s the case here, just “The ads score high in memorability, branding and likability, according to Nielsen.” That sounds a lot like the “eyeballs and clicks” crap too many websites brag about.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “The ads score high in memorability, branding and likability, according to Nielsen.”

      That is all they care about.

      You plant enough seeds and something other than weeds will grow.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The ads were tolerable at first and the kid’s comments made me laugh, although the kids are “actual” actors with agents and whatnot, but GM is GM and will take this campaign way too far as usual.

    The “Like a Rock” campaign went way too long, something like 12 years, and on the street it went “Like a Knock!”, following their V8 piston-slap fiasco. That’s when they had to kill it!

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      To me those ads were never tolerable. If one came on and I was watching that channel, I’d channel-flip.

      I was a GM fan at one time, Oldsmobile in particular and that girthy 455 cubic inch 4bbl V8. Loved it.

      That was before I knew better. If I look back to those days in the wilderness, I wonder, “What was I thinking?”

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        But you do like Jan in her red dress spreading wittiness with customers at the dealership?

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          I’ll take Jan anyday over someone trying to convince me that their Camry is “Grounded to the ground.”

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          NormSV650, if you are referring to the actress Laurel Coppock who plays “Toyota Jan” in the national Toyota commercials?

          She was a “Fox in Socks” looooooooooong before Toyota ever hired her.

          Laurel Coppock has always portrayed the Sally Homemaker image of “The American White Girl Next Door” in a subtle, sexy way.

          Laurel Coppock can sell me a Toyota, any Toyota, any day!

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          Hell f*cking no.

          Toyota Jan, Flo, the “real people” in the Chevy ads, and everyone in charge of Geico’s advertising need to be lined up and shot until they’re very very dead.

  • avatar
    fendertweed

    also eye-rollingly hilarious — using “taught” instead of “taut” to describe a car’s characteristics. ;-o

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    They’ve taken a page from Hollywood: there’s no such thing as bad publicity. I remember a Liberace quote: “I don’t care if they’re laughing WITH me or AT me – I’M laughing all the way to the bank.”

    Remember all the spoofs of Matthew McConaughey Lincoln ads? Lincoln sales went up. Remember all the self-spoofing Joe Isuzu ads? Well, Isuzu no longer imports cars here, so bad example. But those are the possibilities for GM, and they’re going to see which result they’ll get.

    • 0 avatar
      quaquaqua

      You’re confusing the terms causation and correlation. Lincoln’s sales went up (from their embarrassingly low levels) because of some new design language and a demand for luxury CUVs, of which they have several. Just because things happen in a row doesn’t mean one caused the other.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        At least you didn’t say “correlation doesn’t imply causation”, but that’s exactly what I implied. You can’t sell as many cars without advertising as you can when you let people know what’s available. The buzz created by the McConaughy ads and their parodies helped sales of those new models and their design language. That’s my contention, and I’m sticking to it.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Try not to confuse idiotic comedians selling their souls for hits and coverage with the requirements of marketing.
    Like the auto enthusiast who only buys little…they have no public effect.

    Thinking back to the Mr Whipple ads. Always the example of laughed at nerd marketing, yet every person who breathed knew the ad and the message.

    1,000 percent successful

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Too bad the “Real People” ads aren’t going away – they should, and should never have seen the light of day in the first place.

    The greasy-haired host is no better.

    Worst car ad campaign ever.

  • avatar
    LS1Fan

    A memorable but hilarious ad is better then a forgettable but serious alternative. Every spoof,every “Chevy ad lol” Facebook comment,even this very article serve to expand the brand awareness.

    Everyone who makes a public comment about how corny the ads are only feeds the Chevy marketing machine.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    We’ve already paid actors through the end of year, so these ads will continue – RenCen.

  • avatar
    ScarecrowRepair

    I’d watch a Downfall parody.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Reality TV comes to every aspect of our lives.

    SAD!

  • avatar
    ajla

    The last good GM ad was the ELR one where the guy makes fun of French people going on vacation.

    • 0 avatar
      BufferOverflow

      Word. *That* is what it used to mean to be a Cadillac owner — swagger and braggadoccio.
      That one commercial made me want to buy a Cadillac, for the first time in my life.

    • 0 avatar
      Sceptic

      What’s so funny about 48 vacation days per year, and 33 hour work week on top of that? French definitely got it nice. Like the saying goes: Americans live to work, Europeans work to live.

      Gotta watch that commercial.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I have to give GM props for spoofing the Real People campaign in the spots for the Lego Batman movie.

    Of course, if you are spoofing your own cheesy ad campaign, perhaps that’s a sign that it is time to move on.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      You’re right – it’s like three on a match is bad, and telling three related jokes in a row is bad. I hope GM has the sense to quit after the spoof, but I doubt the hacks at lower levels will stop without orders from above. There was a publicist who had a sign on his desk that read, “reductio ad absurdum spoken here”.

  • avatar
    zip89123

    The only thing real about the GM ads are they’re REAL stupid.

  • avatar
    DanielArrr

    I find it rather suspicious that in the French-language version of the Cruze commercials, the alleged real French-Canadian people say exactly the same thing than the alleged real American people in the English version.

    • 0 avatar

      Busted. I would fire the lot of them, and get someone to discuss the product, as in why one would want that car over another….those ads are an utter burn of cash. A grouo of interns would do better-and that isn’t a slight against interns. They don’t even look believable as random folks off the street, unless your street is a back lot in Hollywood.

    • 0 avatar
      toxicroach

      The real people gimmick is that you find actors who don’t have a SAG card yet and use them. They get their SAG card you get to claim they are real people.

      Doesn’t mean it isn’t scripted.

  • avatar

    I honestly do not care about car ads, when I see one I change channels. All of them are lies from “Is it Chevy/Buick/Oldsmobile? Wow!” to “Subaru == love”. When you say “love” I want to see lovely woman not ugly Subaru. Real people cannot mistake cheesy American Chevrolet interiors for German superior ones. Using word “European” as a replacement for “German” is another lie I cannot tolerate. When you say “European” and mean “German” you admit that in the end Europeans lost WW2 to Germany. Thanks God England finally declared independence from Germany (though Germans still own their car companies).

  • avatar
    gottacook

    The “I would have thought it was a European/German car” aspect of these GM ads reminds me of possibly the worst and/or most desperate ad campaign I remember: the Ford Granada. “Our car looks sort of like the lesser Mercedes four-door sedan, and here are photos from different angles to prove it. Therefore, our car must be good!”

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    “The ads score high in memorability, branding and likability, according to Nielsen”

    If that’s where GM is putting it’s faith I’d say Nielsen needs an overhaul.

  • avatar
    plee

    It seems that the more the Chevy truck aluminum vs steel ads stay on the air, the further Chevy pickup truck sales fall behind Ford pickup truck sales. Give it up already. Try something else.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “Chevy truck aluminum vs steel ads ”

      I wonder how long it will be before we see GM trucks utilize aluminum, like Fords?

      Kinda reminds of the 2007 ads where Ford, GM and RAM told us, “Anything Tundra can do, we can do better.”

      And in the following years we saw the domestics come standard with 6-speed automatics, girthier brake calipers, etc.

      Something they never had before the 2007 Tundra came out with it.

      The hypocrisy.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        yet as far as sales goes, the Tundra is way back in 6th place and falling.

        • 0 avatar
          highdesertcat

          JimZ, the Tundra and the Titan are all about being an alternative buy, to take money away from Ford, GM and RAM. And they do that.

          I bet for awhile, both Toyota and Nissan lost money on every sale they made on their big trucks.

          And I doubt they are actually making real money on them now.

          If Tundra and Titan did not exist, as during the dark days of only domestics, many of us would be stuck driving the same-old-same-old Detroit Disasters, without any of the improvements made by Tundra.

          My hope is that Tundra will come out with a bigger V8, a V10 or a V12. I’d go into debt to buy one of those.

          But that will never happen, even if Trump rolls back all that CAFE and emissions nonsense for the next 4 or 8 years.

          Don’t be so dour of Tundra and Titan sales. They are in the right place at the right time.

          Tundra got my money, three times over.

  • avatar
    brn

    “We portray our customers as idiots”, says most automotive marketing departments. GM is no exclusion.

  • avatar
    AdamOfAus

    GM Aus is even more painful. Hipster doofus ads of people sitting around in tight pants, looking and talking casually in all directions.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    We as enthusiasts are probably the wrong people to judge these or any other car commercials. Probably the only ones in my memory were some of the early Chrysler K- and G-body commercials where the voice-over actually listed what Chrysler did to meet the competition.

    30+ years later, car commercials are all touchy-feely or faux-funny, with the Subaru ones being the most annoying (IMO). Hardly any that I can remember recently even spout any kind of specifications at all.

    While the “real people” ones are banal, even the mighty Toyota marketing machine stumbles with it’s most recent “Jan from Toyota” spots. While they’re trying to be amusing, but they’ve become equally annoying. The only redeeming feature of these commcercials is Laurel Coppock herself…

    We (enthusiasts) are the 1%-ers in this situation. The rest of the world doesn’t care much beyond (probably) passenger capacity, fuel mileage, repair frequency and monthly payment.

  • avatar
    Null Set

    The author must be one of those “ordinary people”. If you can confuse “taut” with “taught”, you can confuse a Malibu with a Porsche. Shine on, TTAC.

  • avatar
    kivis

    4 “real people” walk in to hear how great Chevy is, cut to the cars, then cut back to the 4 “real people” ONLY THEY ARE 4 DIFFERENT People, then cut back to the cars, then 4 REAL PEOPLE come to look closer only now they are 4 different different people. Do they think we are idiots????

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    Gawd, the snark on this page is just suffocating. We may laugh at them, but Chevy’s ads seem to be working with their intended audience. They’re not aimed at the ultra-sophisticated, hyper-informed, hard-core gearhead or industry insider. They’re also not even trying to convince any of you hard-asses that have 30-plus-year-old axes to grind with GM (embrace the hate – draw life energy from it). Lighten up, people. But I agree on one point: I like Toyota Jan.

  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    “To have WiFi in the car…THAT’s the dream”. Dumbass real person.

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