Jul 08

Motown’s macho man

Imagine picking up a newspaper or turning on the tube to learn your significant other has fallen
4fcaa6ba3e21 in love with someone else. Well, that's figuratively what happened to Greg Anderson, CEO of ad agency BBH, who read his agency had been fired by Cadillac in Advertising Age! No warning by the client. No note thanking the firm for its work. Nothing. Talk about being blindsided. To make matters worse, the exact same fate befell Susan Gianinno, CEO of Publicis, a month earlier.

Both had fallen victim to Motown's new macho man, Joel Ewanick, the VP of U.S. Advertising for General Motors. Ewanick has been in his job for exactly two months. In just 60 days, he's destroyed his own image, further tarnished GM's already tattered reputation and decimated two fine ad agencies. Now, there's something to tell the grandchildren one day (“Curl up on grandpa's lap and let me tell you about the time I whacked two hot shot ad agencies in less than 30 days. You kids will just love it!”).

Prior to GM, Ewanick had toiled for Nissan, Hyundai and a
yacht maker. Something tells his internal ethics compass went awry on board one
of those yachts.

Kudos to Ad Age for once again providing a valuable reader service by outing such horrific behavior. I wish our PR trades would follow suit. Trust me, Ewanick is not unique (and, try saying that three times fast).

If I were the Motown macho man's new agencies, though, I'd be sure the invoices were paid promptly. This guy put the 'v' in volatile.

We've been 'Ewanicked' a few times in our storied history, but it was never as sinister as this. We once pitched the division of a Fortune 500 company, for example, and were told a decision would be forthcoming shortly. Naturally, that was followed by complete radio silence. Then, sure enough, O'Dwyer's printed an article announcing the corporation's new agency of record. I was upset, so I e-mailed the prospect. He responded a few days later saying he thought he'd sent a letter to the losers. Nice. No apology. No explanation. Nothing. Just lots of wasted time and effort on our part and yet another misbehaving prospect not held accountable.

If there's a god (and one wonders nowadays), Ewanick will get his just desserts one day soon. Ideally, he'll wake up in his Grosse Point Farms estate, shuffle to the front door, pick up a copy of Automotive News and read the following, 'Ewanick Sacked. Smith to Head GM's Advertising.' I'll bet a lot of BBH and Publicis staffers would lift a glass of champagne to toast that decision.

Feb 12

Are you guys still in business?

February 12 - out-of-business Everyone's buzzing about Toyota's troubles. If I've read one image expert's opinion about what the Japanese carmaker needs to do, I've read a thousand.

Lost in all of the Toyota tumult, though, is Chrysler's total inability to capitalize on the opportunity.

Unlike Ford, who grew their January sales by 25 percent and GM, which moved the sales needle north to the tune of 14 percent, Chrysler's sales nosedived by eight percent. Why? According to a recent Ad Age article, the average consumer thinks Chrysler went out of business. Ouch! Selling cars in the Great Recession is tough enough without having to overcome the perception that you no longer exist.

I think I know how Chrysler executives must be feeling. The same thing happened to us (albeit, only for a day or two and within a decidedly smaller universe).

In the early days, Peppercom was known as Middleberg Light. Don Middleberg had built the top dotcom PR firm in the country and our nascent business was seen as a smaller, but rapidly-emerging competitor.

So, when the dotcom bubble burst and clients started falling faster than Autumn leaves in a windstorm, we took a major beating. At the peak of the downturn, we also suffered a very unfortunate service disruption. Our phone lines went down and our web site went black. We fixed the problem within 24 hours and didn't think too much about it. A day or so later, though, I received a few e-mails and calls from friends in the industry asking if we were still in business. Wow. Talk about a wake-up call!

I did exactly what Chrysler is attempting to do now. I over communicated. I made sure we announced promotions, new client wins (no matter how small or inconsequential) and re-marketed existing service offerings as 'new and improved,' I made it my business to make sure the PR universe knew Peppercom was alive and well.

Chrysler needs to continue shouting at the top of their lungs and from the highest mountains lest people continue thinking they're the 2010 version of the Edsel.

Typepad should do communicating as well. Typepad is the company that hosts my blog. They recently changed their model and it's badly impacted the Repman blog. Visitors aren't being permitted to post comments and I'm not being alerted to any comments that manage to appear. We've made countless inquiries to Typepad to get the damn thing fixed but, so far, we haven't heard a thing. Hey Typepad: are you guys still in business?

Nov 05

Standing Behind a Brand Promise

Guest Post from Matt Sloustcher, Peppercom

November 5 - gm-logo From government bailouts to bankruptcy, it has been a decidedly tough year for General Motors. Adding insult to injury, the company’s archrival just announced a surprising $1 billion in profits while GM continues to hemorrhage. Even the much anticipated “May the Best Car Win” marketing blitz launched with decidedly mixed reviews.

Amidst all of the muck, a positive story surfaced last week that I hope is a sign of greener pastures to come. It all started during a media conference call with GM’s marketing guru and vice chairman Bob Lutz to discuss the previously mentioned marketing campaign. While lauding the performance of Cadillac’s 556-horsepower CTS-V, Lutz boldly stated that he would challenge anyone in any production sedan to a race around Monticello Raceway.

What followed next probably surprised Lutz. Jalopnik, a popular auto blog, took him up on the challenge, and Lutz accepted. 120 others soon followed, and GM selected three journalists and five laymen to participate in the race. In the end, the 77-year-old Lutz posted the seventh fastest time overall, and the CTS-V took home four of the five fastest lap times with more experienced drivers at the wheel.
In addition to standing firmly behind their word, Lutz and GM earned a ton of respect from enthusiasts for participating in the challenge. Automotive companies are notoriously risk averse, and in this instance, GM put their guard down and let the CTS-V do their talking for them. In the days that followed, I counted 50-plus articles that resulted directly from the challenge.

After the event Lutz commented, “There's enormous attention being paid to this, and if you compare this cost-wise and effectiveness-wise to, say, making a bunch of TV commercials, this is a highly effective way to get the word out about how good the car is. If we sell 50 or 100 of the CTS-V off this, we'd consider it a success."

While I was happy to hear Lutz affirm the value of effective PR and out-of-the-box thinking, I would argue that the event was a success no matter what its effect on sales are. The common perception today is that GM’s best days are long gone, and by simply standing by its word and living up to its brand promise, the company has started to restore the credibility it needs to successfully reinvent itself.

Jan 30

Here’s why some surveys lack credibility

The media may say otherwise, but they have an insatiable appetite for surveys. Which is why we publicSurvey
relations types churn them out in endless quantities. Some are well done and contribute to thought leadership. Others tell you what you already know. A precious few actually break through and identify new and noteworthy trends.

Then there are those like this one from Cision that simply defy logic and strain credulity.  It reports that General Motors finished SECOND in Cision’s annual corporate reputation index just behind Microsoft.

Talk about stupifying! General Motors is the second most admired corporation in America? Is this the same company that has handed away its market share year-after-year to Toyota? Is this the same company where management is totally insulated from reality and continues to churn out inferior products year-after-year? Is this the same company that helped turn Detroit and the state of Michigan into a 2008 version of ‘The grapes of wrath’?

I’d love to know what hallucenogenic drug the Cision survey respondents were ingesting when they selected GM for such an accolade. It has to be some kick-ass stuff.

May 30

Better late than never

Humming along on its way to oblivion, the General Motors Corporation has finally awakened to the Green movement and announced it would be hiring hundreds of engineers and producing scores of new Hummer_2 models that would be environmentally friendly by 2010.

GM has been stuck in idle for years as an inbred management team allowed Toyota and other foreign competitors to zoom past the once mighty monolith.

Despite finally waking up, GM will continue to lag behind its competitors. Why? Because, while they may have finally stumbled onto the Green trend, GM has yet to produce the kind of quality automobiles that Americans want. So, thanks for becoming eco-friendly, GM. Now, see what you can do about building decent cars.