One of the things that dogs the full comeback of General Motors is the instability of its marketing. That part of the automaker got yet another big shakeup today when GM confirmed what I have been tweeting for a few days – strong rumors that the Chevrolet and Cadillac ad accounts are walking to new ad agencies.

Cadillac, GM's luxury brand, is going into review from Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis and the indications are that Campbell-Ewald, Chevy's old ad shop, will end up with most or all of it. C-E just announced that it was moving from its long-time home in Warren, MI to a new downtown Detroit office next to Ford Field, just blocks from GM.

The other shoe to drop shortly will be the shift of GM's most important brand, Chevy, from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco to McCann-Erickson of Troy, MI. McCann used to be the agency for Buick and GMC, as well as GM's corporate advertising, and has retained some pieces of business over the last few years. Sources have even told us that it was McCann that did a lot of the creative work on Chevy's new ad platform, Find New Roads. (Not to be confused with a former McCann tagline for Saab, "Find Your Own Road.")
The ad shifts are the work of new chief marketing officer Alan Batey, who took over for the ousted Joel Ewanick last year. Ewanick had assigned Chevy and Cadillac ad businesses to Goodby and Fallon respectively when he arrived at GM in 2010.

Batey is taking GM's brands back to the future with the automaker's old ad agencies.

Ewanick, who was dismissed last year following irregularities in a $559 million deal with British Soccer club Manchester United, shook Detroit's ad community to its bones by canning Campbell-Ewald who had held the Chevy business since Warren G. Harding was in the White House. And the Cadillac business had been awarded to New York agency BBH just months before his arrival. Now Batey is taking GM's brands back to the future with the automaker's old ad agencies.

Advertising is a cold business as anyone who has watched AMC's Mad Men can attest. Just two weeks ago, sources told us that Cadillac's global chief Robert Ferguson, who was previously GM's lead lobbyist in Washington DC, was in Minneapolis telling Fallon's troops that the agency was "untouchable." It was the fatal vote of confidence every ad agency executive should know spells the end.

Will this help GM? Shaking up advertising again? Here's a quick status report on all of GM's brands.

Cadillac

Cadillac's share of the US sales market fell to one percent last year from 1.2 percent in 2011 and 1.3 percent in 2010.

Fallon struggled for two years to come up with a coherent idea until the launch of the ATS last year. Cadillac's sales declined two percent last year to 149,782 units. Sales peaked in 1978 with 350,813 vehicles sold. Cadillac's share of the US sales market fell to one percent last year from 1.2 percent in 2011 and 1.3 percent in 2010.

The ATS has been well-received by the media and customers. The all-new XTS is dying on dealer lots. The flagship sedan, which replaced the DTS and STS, has an interior control system, CUE, that Cadillac's older customers are not embracing and dealers are not happy with. The CTS is aging, but a redesign is just around the bend. The SRX crossover holds its own in a fiercely contested category. Escalade remains a brand unto itself, but its base of business is shrinking as sales were down 11 percent last year. A new one is in the wings.

Chevrolet

Chevrolet sales were up 4.3 percent last year and new models like the Cruze and Sonic are solid winners. The Spark is difficult to get excited about in the mini-car category. The Malibu has proven to be a debacle. What should be a clear winner for GM has turned out to be an emergency in need of a solution. The car is languishing on dealer lots and has been given yawns by the media and customers. The new Silverado will juice sales as it always does. The new Corvette has been a sensation and will hopefully pull new eyeballs into Chevy dealership this year when it goes on sale, as well as max out the Kentucky factory's capacity.

Buick and GMC

Advertising stays at Leo Burnett in Chicago. GMC's Professional Grade brand positioning remains rock steady and effective. Buick is still a project with uneven results. The Enclave remains a solid winner. The LaCrosse is due for a redesign, and is in a tough price category. One is coming in mere weeks, but it's unclear whether it will go deep enough. The new Verano is strong, but has caused Regal sales to utterly tank. That's a product planning foul-up. The new Encore crossover has been well received, but competes in a brutally tough category of compact crossovers, is priced high and may be too small for many buyers – it's too early to call the ball on this model.

Buick is still a project with uneven results.

Consistency is often undervalued in the auto business. GM executives have long struggled to understand the weakness in frequent name changes to models and shifts in brand strategy. It's worth noting that Toyota has had the same ad agency in the US, Saatchi and Saatchi, since the 1970s. And the company is on the seventh generation of the Camry without a name change.


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  • 41 Comments
      sckid213
      • 1 Year Ago
      "It's worth noting that Toyota has had the same ad agency in the US, Saatchi and Saatchi, since the 1970s" And Toyota's advertising SUCKS. So does Honda's. Both brands are lucky that people purchase their cars so blindly they don't even need to advertise. Much like Starbucks didn't do TV ads for years until recently. Nobody is buying Toyota for their advertising. "Grounded to the ground"?? Come on now.
      axiomatik
      • 1 Year Ago
      What a bizarre "analysis". The "analysis" has little to do with marketing, and seems to be just a random assemblage of the author's thoughts on various nameplates. Guess what? The ad agency cannot redesign the Malibu for GM, so I hardly see how that is relevant to the article. Also, Cadillac was down 1.2 percent last year. That is not surprising, nor does it have anything to do with marketing. It was due to the fact that the STS and DTS were discontinued in January/February, and their replacement, the XTS, wasn't offered for sale until June, leaving a very large hole in Cadillac's lineup for 4 months (1/3 of the year)
      Will
      • 1 Year Ago
      I rather liked the latest Chevrolet commercials.
      Doug
      • 1 Year Ago
      Something needs to happen. Good example, the current Verano Turbo ad. What car is it about? Or is it a car ad? And for the brief time there actually is a car shiown (much less talked about), hey here's a great marketing idea, lets take a brief side shot of a black sedan going along so people can tell what car it is (not)! If people making these ads are really that dumb (or believe people watching ads are), then they deserve the pink slips. To summarize, the numbers of that car sold without the ad exactly equals the numbers of that car sold with the ad. The end.
      djrroar1
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hey GM I have an idea for you, BUILD BETTER CARS AND TRUCKS!! The same old GM, blame the dealers, blame the ad agencies, same stuff they have done for years! I have been around GM for over 25 years, the NEW GM is just like the OLD GM! We have a joke, we call it the GM accountability model, everyone is standing around pointing fingers at someone else and saying \" It is his/her fault, it can\'t be my fault\"
        Chris
        • 1 Year Ago
        @djrroar1
        GM's come a long way in the last few years. You say you have been around GM for over 25 years, but where have you been the last 5? Back around 2004, one couldn't have paid me to drive a then current Cadillac. Now, I'd seriously consider one if I could afford it. Buicks are even starting to look good again, and I never imagined that happening. After reading your post, I'm getting the impression that you're a disgruntled former employee of the company, and not someone who's still there after 25 years.
          gtv4rudy
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Chris
          djrroart has a point. Maybe GM has improved but it's still behind the Asian companies when it it comes to refinement and engineering into their cars. Seems the only cars with any success in the GM lineup are vehicles originally from abroad.
          tylermars.design
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Chris
          ^^^^djrroar1 We drive the most recent competitive vehicles every day. It sounds like you haven't driven any of our recent vehicles lately, which is why you feel you need to spout off nonsence.
          Jerry
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Chris
          Have to disagree with the only cars selling are from over the pond thing. The ATS, SRX, Equinox, Corvette, etc. all sell well. The Spark, Regal, and its cousin the new Malibu all do not sell well. It is kind of a wash.
        bluemoonric
        • 1 Year Ago
        @djrroar1
        Back to work Mr. President.
      eye.surgeon
      • 1 Year Ago
      One of the most under reported stories of the industry is how the bailout image is still adversely affecting GM sales. I for one will never buy a GM product after the bailout. And as a taxpayer I'm a stockholder unfortunately, against my will.
        Jerry
        • 1 Year Ago
        @eye.surgeon
        Guess that would make Koreans stockholders in Hyundai, Germans stockholders in VW, and Japanese stockholders in Toyota if you follow the same logic.
        bullitt2605
        • 1 Year Ago
        @eye.surgeon
        It should adversely affect them they still owe the tax payers almost 20 billion and the remaining shares the government owns would have to sell for double thier current rate to brake even.
          axiomatik
          • 1 Year Ago
          @bullitt2605
          There is a lot more to the bailout than the initial dollar figure and the resulting sales of the government shares. Would it have been better to have another 500,000 people collecting unemployment instead of paying payroll and income taxes? Would it have been better for the government to take over the UAW pensions, and the pensions of any other suppliers that would have been brought down as well? Would it have been better for the largest segment of US manufacturing to be cratered?
          bullitt2605
          • 1 Year Ago
          @bullitt2605
          Nope I just think more should have been done to penalize those responsible in the first place instead of here\'s some money business as usual.
          bullitt2605
          • 1 Year Ago
          @bullitt2605
          Well who ever down voted me if you like that investment I have some others for you.
      CadiVetteFerrari
      • 1 Year Ago
      There's nothing that Chevrolet offers, aside from the Corvette and, maybe, the Camaro, that is appealing enough to steal me out of KIA or Hyundai. Cadillac is a different story, but there bread and butter is Chevrolet and they need help. Is it the bow-tie? The interiors have improved dramatically from generation to generation. But the exteriors need work. They need to steal the lead designer from KIA, who stole from Audi, and make some inspiring designs.
        Taint
        • 1 Year Ago
        @CadiVetteFerrari
        I'm the exact opposite. I just can't do hyundai/kia.
          TopGun
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Taint
          Well Taint, you must be wrong. CadiVetteFerrari is right. :)
          RudyH
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Taint
          to each their own. I am a bit with CadiVetteFerrari...however I think Kia / Hyundai have the most extreme designs, where as GM is pretty much on the opposite spectrum, very boring cars that Hyundai / Kia was drawing up about 10-15 years ago. Doesn't mean it's wrong, but it's the same with politics, you can have a very liberal person (Kia / Hyundai) or conservative (GM on a whole, oddly Pontiac was somewhat liberal but didn't fit)
      Nathan
      • 1 Year Ago
      lol maybe it's time they realize it's the vehicles that are the problem and not the ad agencies. A good enough product should sell itself, or nearly so.
        RudyH
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Nathan
        Pretty much the best, straight to the point comment. Minus the new Corvette, take all the rest of the line-up and start over...even the Corvette could still use more refinement but I have a feeling this will come over the next 5 years (more so Stingray to make way for the 'new' Vette)
      Mazdaspeed6
      • 1 Year Ago
      Marketing is important for awareness, but a good car that meets the needs of its audience sells itself. It seems that GM is always focuses so much energy on telling us how great their cars are, rather than showing.
        Chris
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Mazdaspeed6
        GM needs to do both. A lot of the demographics they are trying to attract have become somewhat loyal to Hondas and Toyotas over the last 30 years, think compact and mid-size family sedan buyers. They need to shake things up and people's attention. The key is having is having great products to back it up. Their current lineup looks a lot better than it did just 5 years ago. Their trucks, the Corvette, and Camaro basically sell themselves. Riding in a new Cruze was enough to make me forget that I was riding in what was once the Cavalier, and the new Impala looks to be promising as well. There's also no denying that Cadillac and Buick have both definitely turn a corner. The SS looks intriguing as well. Their biggest issue, from a products standpoint, is their little design misstep with the current Malibu. That's the last segment you want to drop the ball on.
      BB
      • 1 Year Ago
      i sell chevrolets. 3 engines, 4+ trim levels on malibus, and even a neurotic mix-and-match between those. 2 completely different radios, the most absurd mix of options you can/can't have. an ordering system for build-your-own malibus that stupefies the 10 year GM veteran. then the wrong car arrives. extremely sharp edges all over the steering wheel hub where your hands will be caressing them the next five years or 72 months. madness.
      Alfonso T. Alvarez
      • 1 Year Ago
      So, with your statement here: " .... The all-new XTS is dying on dealer lots ..." I basically lost any faith in the validity of your posting. See, the XTS is number two in its segment ahead of everyone else but Mercedes!! So, yeah, do some research next time before you come across this stupidly misinformed again!!
      A3TDI
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is there any difference between a Camry and a Cruze? GM is getting outsold because of lame advertising and product marketing. They need to keep changing it until they get it right.
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