What do you get when you mix an old white guy with a beaten down brand? GM’s new ad campaign

October 1

Have you seen the new TV spots from the 'new' General Motors that feature the 'new' CEO Ed Whitacre? They're just dreadful and reinforce the brand's image as yesterday's car for yesterday's consumer.

The spots sport a robotic Whitacre walking around the empty hallways of GM's corporate headquarters and extolling the virtues of the new, lean and mean General Motors. Whitacre ends the commercials by laying down the gauntlet to GM's competitors and declaring, “May the best car win.”


I know people who work with GM today and who have worked with them in the past. There's a pervasive 'not invented here' mentality that permeates the company and its marketing strategy (if you can call it that). The corporate hierarchy continues to espouse inside-out, top-down sales and marketing that fails miserably at connecting with consumers. The Whitacre campaign is just the latest example. It features the wrong man saying the wrong things at the wrong time.

I won't buy a GM car. Period. In fact, the only way I'd even consider one is if I saw someone I knew and trusted sitting behind the wheel. I'd want to know that the quality and service issues had been fixed and that the ride, design and style at least approximated what I get from the European and Japanese models. Even after all that, though, there's nothing a GM salesman could ever do to get me to purchase one.

Seeing a doddering, out-of-touch old man meandering through the lonely offices of a battered brand is a huge turnoff that would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

Who comes up with this stuff? Mr. Goodwrench?

As for the better car winning, it already has. And, GM's continually-shrinking market share is the best indicator that Toyota, Honda, BMW and others have long ago put GM in their collective rear view mirrors.

7 thoughts on “What do you get when you mix an old white guy with a beaten down brand? GM’s new ad campaign

  1. Some great inside baseball on GM, Bomberpete. Thanks. I’m cool with acknowledging that Whitacre is at least trying to fix the problems. But, the ad campaign is another wrong turn on the highway to oblivion.

  2. I agree with you about the lousy ads, RepMan. The whole thing was ill-advised, and Whiteacre is no Lee Iacocca. Still, let’s give the man some props. He appears to be doing something behind the scenes.
    Today GM’s reviled and incompetent sales head, Mark LaNeve, gave two weeks notice. That wouldn’t have happened if Rick Waggoner and his BOD were still “running” things.
    The bigger problem at GM is that their “same old, same old” group think is like a particularly resistant form of cancer. It will take years for an outsider to have any impact — years that GM doesn’t have.
    GM marketing STILL reflects the thinking of the OOTWG (out-of-touch white guys). It’s led by Bob Lutz, the 77-year-old product “genius” beloved by the auto trade press because he’s a colorful character. The reality is that Lutz has produced only one successful mainstream product in 8 years at GM, the Chevy Malibu — a marginal success at that. And he “retired” when they were begging for Federal funds last spring so his salary wouldn’t be an issue, but magically “returned” after they got the cash.
    Sad, really because the whole thing could have been avoided.

  3. Interesting take on the issue at hand. Michael. That said, I think any leader who’d support investing in a Japanese auto maker would be put behind the wheel of a car hurtling 100 mph around Dead Man’s Curve.

  4. As consumers we are free to laugh at the absurdity of this marketing choice, marvel at the ineptitude of GM business choices, and go buy Toyotas. But, as American citizens, many of us are outraged at the absurdity and ineptitude listed above – because with our fed tax dollars we were forced to buy GM. We paid for this ad. And we pay for the salary of Robert Lutz, the “design czar of Detroit” who swooped in to take over marketing at GM. Given our deficit why didn’t we invest in Toyota, a qualified employer of U.S. labor with textbook marketing competence and a penchant for actually making cars that consumers like to buy?

  5. I’m so glad you wrote about this, Rep. The first time I saw the ad I thought exactly the same thing. The man may be an excellent CEO–I don’t know. But he looks and sounds ancient and dried up. And the dark suit makes him look like a mortician. No charisma, no personality–he projects the personality of just another bean counter without vision beyond the spreadsheets on his laptop and the ticker on CNBC. Reminds me of the kind of professional man who doesn’t own a pair of jeans or sneakers and mows the lawn in khakis, loafers and a sport shirt. The kind of guy who has no calluses on his hands because he’s never done any real work with them. This isn’t reinvigoration, it’s more of the same. When your corporate captain looks like he doesn’t know how to find the oil dipstick on a car you might manufacture, he’s the wrong image to project.

  6. But look at all of the fancy technology the designers are using, Rep, they are innovating right before our very eyes! You are being tough on them, but the decision to feature the CEO was a bad one.