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Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Ewanick: effective, efficient, enviable, and now ex-Hyundai.

by on Mar.19, 2010

Last year Hyundai let buyers refuel at $1.49 a gallon under an incentive program.

First it was a phone call, “Did you hear?” Then a text, “this can’t be true … can it?” Finally a call, text and email all essentially with the same message, “Look at their media site, it’s up and official, “Joel Ewanick is moving from Hyundai to Nissan as vice president marketing!”

My calls to him were not returned. Voicemail and email messages requests for off-the-record backgrounding to Nissan’s agency EVP account director or to Nissan PR staff were not returned.

The contemporary history of marketing in automobile business is littered with the remains of once celebrated marketers – both men and women with titles of vice president, director of marketing and the now catchy, chief marketing officer – whose careers died from poor vehicles, poor performance under pressure, arrogance and hubris.

However, Ewanick was the poster child of marketing success in a devastated industry. He was the celebrated darling of marketing media, some mainstream media and automotive analysts.

Ad News!

With some amazing products, audacious assurance, and his introduction of “big presence in big venues” ad strategy, Hyundai rose like Phoenix from the ashes of price marketing to a position of prominence. Ewanick was rewarded with many prestigious awards and accolades – in my opinion, all well deserved.    (more…)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Nostalgia, nice, noteworthy, nutty, naughty...

by on Jan.08, 2010

Chrysler Changes Ad Direction & Agencies

Over the years, Chrysler’s divisions have had some terrific ad campaigns and some that define the word horrible. There have been some great ads for bad cars and bad ads for good cars, along with the “why in the hell did they do that?” campaigns.

This ad tells a story of Chrysler products bringing home loved ones.

However, that is the ad business where everyone is a critic, especially dealers – who want instant results – and think good ads start and end with a big price reduction or rebates.

Now there is a new management team in Auburn Hills. They decided the best way to revitalize the moribund divisions was with a fresh new creative palates on which new advertising agencies could work their marketing legerdemain.

The first new campaign called “Coming Home” (why not going home?) — click here — is a lovingly  photographed journey through Chrysler’s corporate history and America’s that appeared for the first time just eight days ago during a massive buy on football Bowl Games.

The kick-off ad is strategically good, and tactically very good.  As the old year closes out and new is at hand reminiscences, memories and nostalgia help ease the pain of going into the unknown New Year. The production values, music and voice over are very well done in a genre that can be maudlin. The first ad at least was up-beat.

Chrysler hopes the new campaign reminds those millions of American’s who have owned, loved or liked its cars over the years that there’s an old company that is trying to reimage their reputation, hopefully with cars consumers will buy.

Time will tell

Quick question: Which Luxury Brand is doing the best job?

Every brand in the luxury category has been hit hard during the recession. Yes, there’s a multi-level, full court press among the traditional luxury brands — BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz – to be the premiere brand in the premiere category. Audi, still a footnote in the American Luxury league, has stepped into the foray and made significant inroads with unique programs that were detailed by Scott Keogh in a recent speech, the brand’s imaginative and innovative veep of marketing. For a brief clip click here.

Famed, but money guszzling, Brit brands of Jaguar and Land Rover have used Tata’s ownership and financial backing to introduce some very nice vehicles that could recapture the patina of success. Rolls-Royce is moving its new Ghost model into the market with some very good early sales results, given the economy. Bentley’s new models are striking a responsive cord with their buyers too.


The old American leaders in luxury cars – Cadillac and Lincoln – lost their prestige years ago and both are trying to resuscitate brand image. Caddy has its one trick pony, the CTS, the aging Escalade, a slick new SRV (that emulates, finally, the RX 300 et al) while Lincoln’s MK series have nice new dramatic designs, but underneath are lacking in genuine luxury bona fides. In both cases, bad memories are difficult to erase.

So the answer to the question raised above is: hard to tell until the sales numbers start to appear during the year.

Down the heritage trail

Here’s a link, click here,  for a photographic display of some of the best looking classics I’ve ever seen.  (more…)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Safety, saving, solicitation, Snuggie, smart, singular...

by on Nov.20, 2009

International Road Safety Conference underway in Russia

Hundreds of representatives have gathered in the land of terrible drivers and worse roads, Russia, to attend the “First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety.” It’s sponsored by the United Nations World Health Organization to help reduce the number of deaths from auto accidents, which now number 1,300,000 worldwide.

Requested by the UN General Assembly, the event represents an opportunity to make progress on tackling a leading cause of death and disability. As many as 1000 government ministers, representatives of UN agencies, officials from civil society organizations, leaders of private companies, and many other road safety experts will attend.

Participants will draw attention to the need for action to address the large and growing global impact of road traffic crashes, review progress on implementation of the World report on road traffic injury prevention, and share information and good practices on road safety. It is anticipated that participants will issue a clear call for a Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.

This conference could propose international legislation covering road safety and the vehicle’s occupants and pedestrians.

Interestingly only 3 U.S. of 376 writers have been accredited for the conference, which could produce some changes around the world. Click Here for more info.

Another environmental commercial from DDB Sweden for VW

This is another in an interesting, entertaining and thoughtful commercials on conservation and ecological initiatives. Click Here.

Not your everyday garages

If you owned a personal fleet of exotic, classic or rare automobiles where is the best place to store and display them? In a garage of course. Ah, but the choice of style and design is practically limitless. More and more luxury homes are including the newest real estate status symbol – a luxurious garage. Click Here.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Marketing, motivating, miserable, messy and mansions …

by on Oct.09, 2009

Toyota’s Big Bucks Marketing & Ad Spend

Despite a significant drop in retail sales since CARS, aka Clunkers, made them king of the hill, Toyota, according to industry reports is about to spend $1 billion … yes the “b” word on marketing and advertising in the fourth quarter which started a few days ago.

It will be interesting to follow this huge jump in spending to see (a) where the media bucks are going and (b) what the creative will be. Toyota’s ads have been rather bland and lackluster except for the Prius and that’s not exceptional. Toyota’s choice of media from what I have seen, heard and/or read is suspect.

Like Goofy Motors, their advertising is creatively challenged and lacking in focus, much less a rational, believable raison d’être. The brand’s loss of sales and market share, the quality recalls and now the legal predicament need more than an emergency room triage fix. This is major life support for the brand and its dealers.

That said, Toyota is to be complimented on this aggressive and dynamic move. They can and should set the pace for the automotive industry not just in cars sold, but also in their approach to marketing.

Play It Again Sven … Please

DDB Stockholm, Volkswagen’s Swedish advertising agency recently launched a campaign dedicated to the idea that something as simple as happiness is the easiest way to get people to change habits and attitudes.

Like getting people to do some physical exercise by skipping the escalator and walking up the stairs – better for the individual to get the exercise of walking than riding. Make it easy. Make it fun. Make it like this. Click here for a truly enjoyable, fun and motivating commercial.

And getting people to pick-up or dispose of trash can be a daunting task, except if it’s done with humor, style and good natured. Here is another from DDB for Volkswagen.

Gyrating Motors Newest Caddy Ad – YGBK!

Fritz Henderson in 2010 Cadillac SRX.

Fritz Henderson in 2010 Cadillac SRX.

The new Cadillac SRX advertising of its smart looking crossover running through the usual scenic backdrops has seeming countless supers exclaiming, proclaiming many attributes using various “re” words – reinvigorate for example.

Now a one-word review: regurgitate.

Then there’s the Buick LaCrosse’s selection – paid of course — as the official automobile of the 2nd Annual New York City Wine and Food Festival., a huge event for the city known for its many foodies.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Meaningless, marketer, motivation, movement…

by on Sep.21, 2009

Please buy and try our cars, please! Pretty please!

GM's new non-charismatic advertising pitchman.

GM's new non-charismatic advertising pitchman.

Business recessions are first cousins to death and taxes – they come with regularity but are not predictable. Many years ago in a business downturn, some unknown, but clever retailer, a men’s shoe store proprietor, originated 30-day wear tests.

The message was delivered in print or broadcast by the nice, aging white guy who owned the store who personally guaranteed your satisfaction when he confidently said, “Wear these Florsheim’s (or other brand name) shoes for 30 days. If you don’t like them, just return them for a full refund. If you’re not happy, I’m not happy.”

Such a deal!

The odd thing was it always worked; always brought in business at a slow time and the potential liability was almost negative. Less than three or four percent of the wing tips or whatever was sold were returned to the store. It was as good as money in the bank for a shoe retailer.

Fast forward to 2009 and yet another big time business recession, some say a depression, no one is left untouched, but the automobile business takes a serious gut shot. What can be done to bring in business?

Hmmm. How about a satisfaction guarantee? Drive the client’s cars for a while; if not satisfied, just bring it back to the dealer. Sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it. Only this time the industry has switched from shoes to cars. Same concept. Same guarantee. Hmmm.

Less than a couple months out of bankruptcy court, GM, the once arrogant Gargantuan Motors, but now justifiably called Groveling Motors is making that pitch as the lead-in to a new campaign called “May the Best Car Win!” using the satisfaction guaranteed crutch.

If you haven’t seen the commercial, we won’t waste your time with a click through. The marketing and creative types have put the new CEO of GM in front of the cameras as the spokesperson, literally saying in his soft Texan twang, “Have we got a deal for you. Drive our cars (the names you know) for 60 days and if you don’t like it, bring it back and we’ll return your money for a full refund!”

Automotive hype is not automotive hope, as in we hope the new campaign is gonna work based on a satisfaction guarantee. Moreover, why use this guy anyway? He may have been a good CEO for a telephone company, but as a spokesperson, he’s lacking the “carisma” gene. Why should we put confidence in him?

The payoff line really got to me, “We’re putting our money down that if people buy one of our vehicles and don’t absolutely love it, we’ll take it back.” First of all, it’s not GM’s money for them to say, “We’re putting our money down …” just a damn minute, it’s not their money. As taxpayers, it’s our money! We bailed ‘em out, remember? In addition, don’t forget they’re supposed to pay it back, although chances of that are slim – see Ken Zino’s analysis here.

Even the Lutzonian proclamation announcing the new ad effort in a media release lacked the bold, bodacious, sometimes belligerent tone of halcyon days that we have come to expect. “We think if consumers give us a fair chance and look at the facts on the things that matter most to them, like design, fuel economy, warranty and safety, our vehicles are the best choices — that’s what makes an offer like this possible.”

Beyond the profligate squandering of loaned financial assets, there are other product/brand marketing issues! Consider if you will such important topics as product positioning and product differentiation, product personality, product appeal, product presentation and product believability.

As the lead commercial in campaign designed to instill confidence in the “revitalized GM” it is obvious there is a severe lack of knowledge, much less awareness of the demands of consumers in the new automotive marketplace.

No Taxpayer Moolah!

No Taxpayer Moolah!

Do I have the answers? No. Nevertheless, there must be someone on the agency or corporate side who can be more convincing than just an empty promise of satisfaction. They still do not get it, do they? Gee, 60 days that’s double the old shoe promise.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Graceless, golf, glad-rags, and audience gauges...

by on Sep.11, 2009

Chrysler and BBDO

Word has it the new Fiat marketing head, had all raves for the current work a few weeks back, going so far as to tell them that the Ram Challenge stuff was incredible ...

Word is the new Fiat marketing head told BBDO that the Ram Challenge stuff was "incredible."

Interesting comments from a source. Many BBDO creative’s were at work over Labor Day weekend. NY isn’t doing the creative for this pitch. Which prompted the assumption they (a) have great confidence in the Detroit staff pulling it off (supposedly Gary Pascoe is taking the lead and not Rick Dennis), or (b) they’re not wasting their time in NY and have already written off the account.

All BBDOers have received an email that said what a great body of work BBDO has produced thus far and that they were going to succeed in retaining the account. Word has it the new Fiat marketing head, had all raves for the current work a few weeks back, going so far as to tell them that the Ram Challenge stuff was incredible and that BBDO had received a lot of bad direction from Chrysler in their campaign work. Then Fiat suddenly did a 180 and put Chrysler up for grabs.

I would think that if BBDO loses the Chrysler brand, it’s only a matter of time before the other two went on the block. And who would take just the national work without the lucrative dealer work? And media buying money? All big buck generators. I can imagine BBDO holding on to Jeep since they just got that back from Cutwater, but that was under the old Chrysler regime, not the Fiat guys. Soooooo… And I heard that all the new creative for Jeep was done out of NY anyway.

BMW Hosts Major FedEx Cup Golf Event

Sponsorship of televised professional sports events by automobile advertisers has, like most TV advertising, been significantly cut this year. The spring has always been a so-so time anyway with the exception of golf, but this sport has also lost major sponsors and advertisers for both the men’s and women’s professional golfers.

Not too long ago, if a car company didn’t have its name on at least one tournament it was tantamount to not serving shrimp at the Christmas party. Most dealers love golf and so do many company execs. One exec who must go nameless, the head of a division of a Big 3 company, purportedly went from never having played the game to having a very low handicap and pairing up with one of the biggest names, all at shareholders’ expense, but I digress.


BMW has taken an aggressive approach with sponsorship of a key PGA tour event.

Pro golf and professional golfers have been hurt the most in advertising and sponsorship cut-backs. Buick, once the host of the most tournaments has cancelled everything including sponsorship of Tiger Woods. Ford’s left its named tournaments to go fallow. Chrysler dropped out of the famous Bob Hope Tournament and a couple other events. Honda’s taken a pass on golf and so has Nissan.

And when was the last time you saw a golfer with a car logo on his shirt, cap or golf bag? Couple years ago, right?

Only BMW and Mercedes remain for the car golf fan, make that luxury car golf fan to be demographically correct, with sponsorships of tournaments. The latter has the first PGA event of the year and provides vehicles for a couple events.

Hole in One!

Hole in One!

BMW has taken an aggressive approach in the U.S. with sponsorship and naming rights of a key event in the PGA Tour ending-play-off-event known as the FedEx Cup. This multi-million dollar prize event is centered on a players ranking at the end of the regular season with only those of with a minimum ranking invited to play in the first of four events. As the short play-off season – just four weeks long – winds down players are cut based on scores at each week’s events until the final.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Product, planes and progress

by on Aug.28, 2009

Veedubu’s Quest for an Advertising Agency


Hey, people: VW has changed advertising agencies twice in less than five years.

The phone calls, emails, faxes, FedEx’s, snail mails to Roth Associates about getting on the long list, short list, any list to qualify for the Volkswagen account has to be almost as long as the line-up for free government money in the “Cash For Clunkers” program.

Any agency’s new biz veep (a position of limited duration) the committee members and top execs are literally frothing at the mouth with eager anticipation. Why? Because winning an automotive account was tantamount to climbing the Mount Everest of the industry. To the winner went the financial spoils along with accolades and awards of a major advertiser. That was the old business model.

Hey, people: VW has changed agencies twice in less than five years – something is amiss in Herndon, Virginia or more likely in Germany.

So Kerri Martin brought in one agency without a “review” – who cares, except those who weren’t invited to the dance. Hell, she’d used them at Mini with (most will admit) great success and as I recall from an interview with her at that time, the charge was “raise people’s attention and interest!” This is exactly what CPB did as most will recall.

Did I like their work? Some of it, but certainly not all it, especially the use of the former Mrs. Andre Agassi, the most recent talking bug, and the split costume ads, but in between were often campaigns and ads of real genius that did get people’s attention. Attention did translate to visits to dealers, but once inside there, there was a major void – no interesting products.

And it is product, which drives the creative to new heights of accomplishment especially in the automotive business. Some recent examples include Audi (a VW company) which had a rather poor public perception for many years following a “60 Minutes episode” about unintended acceleration but rebounded with outstanding vehicles backed with product driven advertising in the luxury field. Take this recent commercial. They too were an agency switcher a few years ago.

Of course, there are the Korean kissing cousins brands of Hyundai and Kia.

Hyundai once on the bottom of the JDP study list has literally knocked the industry on its smug butt by not only creating the Genesis, the recent Car of the Year then backing it first with great product based advertising, then using that as the umbrella for the Assurance Program and buck forty-nine gasoline. They too recently switched agencies for reasons not clearly detailed.

Kia, which once shared the poor quality image syndrome, changed that perception by offering a 100,000-mile guarantee to support the reliability claim. There it is again: product based creative. New and better products were introduced and supported with product and demographically focused ads for the new Soul(reviewed here a few weeks ago) with arresting quirky ads and the Forte – a sedan with nice features at a good price that was scarily honest.

The voiceover reveals Kia didn’t invent the engine, speed, satellite, safety features MP3 players, attention to details and other attributes, Kia just brought them “as standard features.”


Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Clunkers, Concurs, Comments & Critiques

by on Aug.24, 2009

OK, 489,269 New Cars Were Sold, Now What?

Now what?

Now what?

What’s a dealer to do? Now that the program has all but ended, many dealers selling small, energy efficient and environmentally efficacious vehicles have no cars on their lots to — hmm, that is the question, isn’t it?

With the end of free money is there still a pent-up demand for new cars of any size going to continue? 

Will the IRS tax those who got the $3,500 or $4,500 special payment to buy a new car, it was income?

Will the car gift fairy return and wave the magic Congressional wand for another spate of free money?

Will there be a return of the giant incentives from manufacturers?

What about another round of zero, zero, zero programs?

Who has new, 2010 cars in production that might capture American’s interest in a new car soon?

Or, has the CARS program, while temporarily important, sated the appetite for new cars of those few American’s who need, want and can afford a new vehicle without the bonus of a free money incentive in an economy that has barely started to respond from its semi-comatose state with trillions in financial aid?

And speaking of finances, when will the government kick the golden goose into action to pay dealers who now know what it means to have a severe case of negative cash flow. Could the good news affect of the Cash for Clunkers be diminished by slow pay?

No answers, just questions, lots and lots of questions.

Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance: Some Old Cars Have Really Big Prices

No government funding, financing or free-bee’s were need at the recently concluded antique-exotic-autos auctions galas on the Monterey Peninsula this year as upwards of $125 million worth of vehicles were sold at auction I was told by McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance and his colleague Dave Kinney, Publisher of Hagerty’s Cars That Matter Price Guides. This amount was down slightly from published figures of the 2008 auctions.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Customers, Characters, Commerce and Concours

by on Aug.14, 2009

A Tale of Two Car Buyers: Some Things Never Change!

Auto writers, journalists, commentators and pundits are often subjected to inquisitions from relatives, friends, neighbors and colleagues outside the automotive world:

Questions include: What do you like best? What should I buy? What would you buy? Why that? How much should I pay? It’s not a clunker now what? Is it really safe? But it’s so ugly – looks like a bread box.”

And the “cash for clunkers” program, the economy and a shortage of ‘desirable’ cars have exacerbated the questions.

But what happens when it’s your wife who is thinking about buying a new car? Especially when she has always done shopping on her own, cut her deals, paid for it with her money, favors a specific brand, likes a specific style, thinks the entire process is a nasty game and the buyer never wins, most salespeople are either disinterested or too pushy, the entire process is fraught with a lack of full disclosure and it contributes to a daily “CBH” – car buying headache.

What if it’s the new wife of one of my oldest and best friends, who, aided by her new spouse with his own rather odd set of automotive buying considerations and values? Considerations that are far different than the new bride’s who buys only “cute little cars in pretty colors that make her smile.” But she also gets a CBH and CMS (car marketing stress) after walking out of every store. Her husband however goes ballistic at the process and demands to speak to the oldest salesman on the floor or walks out. Then calls me. You see the newlyweds live in Texas.

It’s a helluva conundrum and it’s been going on for a couple of weeks. Over the breakfast, lunch or dinner table with my wife and countless cell phone calls from my friend and/or his wife as they enter or leave a dealers showroom.  Is two weeks the gestation period of new car buying? Must be.

My wife’s decision to consider a new car was prompted by the service manager of a dealership literally saying, “It’s time. Your car is on a life support and I can’t tell you how much long it’ll last.” Sad news after 150,000+ miles of faithful service, but it was the push to end procrastination she needed and ruefully decided to go car shopping.

Test Drive!

Free Test Drive!

Contrast this to my friend who thought his wife’s six year old car, while small, cute and “does bring a smile to her face,” was too damn small for the crazed nuts driving those big trucks and SUVs on the nasty freeways of Houston. “It can’t be really safe,” was his comment. His wife, however, was not going car shopping.  Her car was just fine, thank you and only had 40,000 miles.  It took some convincing, but the newlyweds spent two weekends car shopping.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia

British, bungling, broadband and buildings...

by on Jul.10, 2009

Jay Leno, car enthusiast and comic turned pitchman introduces new Jaguar

The last generation sedan failed to move away from the outdated shape that had been used for Jaguar's flagship sedan for decades.  Not so the 2010 model.

Finally changed enough? See Buick below!

As reported in The Detroit Bureau by Paul Eisenstein, Jaguar held a verrrrry fannnncy gala at London’s bastion of modern art, the Saatchi Museum to introduce the new Jaguar XJ. 

Jay Leno, former host of NBC’s Tonight Show, offered a few well chosen words to deliver his reminisces of his first sighting of a Jag that became a long lasting affection for the iconic British brand. To see the corporate video click here.

Buick’s bungling, bodacious, bad La Crosse commercial

2010 Buick LaCrosse

Is the best ad (or Jag) Buick can do?

Pinning its future on new and improved products has to be good move for GM, but it will all go for naught if commercials like this are used to convince prospective buyers this is really new and improved product. 

This is a truly dreadful, disgusting and in my opinion damaging commercial to the Buick La Crosse, which is a good product based on recent reviews. (I’ve not driven it yet.)