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Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Review, results and rewards...

by on Jul.24, 2009

How about ad agency reviews for all GM’s brands?

2010 Chevrolet Camaro Transformers Special Edition

Most of the creative from all these shops is beyond bland and boring, it's simply bad advertising.

Nothing can cause serious pain, head-aches, anxiety attacks, depression or melancholia than news the ad agency you work for on the such-and-such brand is going into review. But it’s never been a problem in Detroit with GM’s shops. 

Well, Phil Gurascio did shake things up when he ordered cuts in the 15% commission GM was paying its agencies, a drop to 9%, when he first joined GM and then hired a couple creative boutiques, but that was long ago.

Until recently GM’s agencies were literally revered, recognized and respected as brand partners. Reviews? Hah! Sacrosanct maybe, but reviewed … never!  Who would know what to do and when?

Both agencies and the big budget GM brands took great pride in noting, protecting and honoring decade’s long relationships, some going back to the 1920′s.

No Agency Review Required!

No Agency Review Required!

Yet, the financial debris which resulted from the approval of the GM’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Federal Court that summarily dismissed, disregarded, ignored, forgot and overlooked untold billions of debt  obligations to bondholders, stockholders, retirees and suppliers … everyone except GM’s advertising agencies, which were needed by the new company.

GM’s agencies got a “go past home” free pass. They got paid most, if not all of the monies owed to them and kept the business too.  Chevy is still a Campbell-Ewald where it’s been since the 1920′s. Pontiac is still with Leo Burnett, which in previous iterations was MJ&A, DMB&B and Chemistri and at one time handled Cadillac, Pontiac, Mr. Goodwrench and GM corporate accounts. McCann retains Buick, well sort of.

Most of the creative from all these shops is beyond bland and boring, it’s simply bad advertising. Getting it sold to the client is not and never will be the measure of good advertising Yeah, I know an agency is only as good as the client lets it be. But after so many years who is and was the responsible custodian of the old brand? The agency that’s who. They don’t get a pass from me on this.


Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Eyesight, engaging, egregious and enthusiasm …

by on Jun.19, 2009

EyesOn Design Creates “Expressions” of Willie G. Davidson

Willy G. Davidson

The Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology is celebrating its 23rd year of raising money to support research for the visually impaired, through the efforts of EyesOn Design’s annual Vision Honored event. Each year notable designers and past recipients select an individual to receive the EyesOn Design prestigious Lifetime Design Achievement Award. This year EyesOn Design will present the award to iconic motorcycle designer Willie G. Davidson, Senior Vice President and Chief Styling Officer at Harley-Davidson Motor Company.

At 4 pm on Saturday June 20, 2009, motorcycle enthusiasts are invited to ride with Davidson from the ABC Harley-Davidson dealer in Waterford, Michigan to the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, where they will enjoy a creative black-tie affair “unlike any other in metro Detroit.”

Surrounded by legendary examples of GM automotive design, guests will enjoy an evening filled with surprises. Willie G. Davidson and Harley aficionados will roll into the Heritage Center at 6 pm. cocktails and appetizers will be served outside, amongst the chrome and steel of the motorcycles and the sounds of American Rock ‘n Roll. At 7 pm, the dinner and presentation will celebrate Davidson’s design achievements.

The evening will continue at 9 pm as guests enjoy Club Night Vision, a party within a party, which will feature cocktails, desserts and a display of fashions, art, film and music inspired by the designs of Willie G. Davidson. Guests will dance the night away with Willie G. and friends enjoying the evening. Tickets for Club Night Vision only are priced at $75 per person. Tickets for the full evening of celebration are priced at $300 per person or $2,750 per table of 10 — visit the website.

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

Survival, Schadenfreude and Sympathy for Chrysler.

by on May.08, 2009

Screen shots of television advertising campaign, "We're building a new car company."

Screen shots of the new television advertising campaign, "We're building a new car company."

Marketing Mavens Advice for Chrysler

The epicenter of the domestic automobile business these days resides in Courtroom 523 at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York at One Bowling Green, New York, where Judge Arthur J. Gonzales, a respected jurist, is ruling on the corporate future of Chrysler, LLC in bankruptcy case 09-500002.

Through the legal funnel, a maelstrom of claims, analysis, counter-claims, appeals and rulings, Chrysler will emerge in a new business model. But a significant, critical key issue will remain unresolved, unsettled and unknown: How to get customers into showrooms to even consider buying a new Jeep, Dodge or Chrysler.

The facts are well known. Chrysler’s corporate image and reputation and that of its three brand names is that of severely damaged goods — product quality has been poor, designs lackluster, there’s no financing available, factories have shut down, people laid off, dealers are being closed and there’s a host of other issues and problems that must be addressed and considered.

What to do?

This is the perfect storm, cliché aside. What can Chrysler do, what must it do to attract potential customers, prospective clients and prospective consumers into its showrooms?

That is exactly the question I presented to several of the best and brightest minds I know in marketing, advertising, promotion and public relations earlier this week.

Some of those queried are key creative, marketing and executives in major ad agencies with automotive and non-auto clients, others are CMO’s or ad directors of competitive companies, big time media mavens and even academic intellectuals were contacted. All were promised that they would remain anonymous, replies strictly confidential since enough auto-ad-types are on the beach already. So here are some of their thoughts:

Maven #1: Obama has given Chrysler the chance to re-invent itself. They should take advantage of it. A little confident truth couldn’t hurt. This is news that I would tell customers. Imagine these creative platforms:

  • Made in Detroit, backed by Washington
  • Obama is behind our company, so yon can get behind the wheel of our cars
  • We’re not going out of business, we’re re-inventing our business

On the big picture, Chrysler and Dodge should be retired. These are names associated with a loser third-string car company. Fiat and even Alfa Romeo are not much better. If I were running Chrysler, I would simply invent a new brand. A new car company for a new millennium. Call it Verde. (Italian for green). And not Verde Moors. Just Verde.    (more…)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

This week's raves, rejoinders and remembrances of things past.

by on Apr.24, 2009

Country Music Video Dramatizes Plight of Detroit’s Auto Workers

I’m not a big fan of country music, other than Willie Nelson, but there’s a recent country music video homage to the Detroit’s devastating automobile industry’s economic and personal abyss by country star John Rich.

Called “Shuttin Down Detroit,” the emotional, touching, poignant music video stars Kris Kristofferson as a laid off auto worker and recent Oscar nominee, Mickey Rourke is his shop buddy. Through series of well produced, acted and directed scenes Kristofferson’s story unfolds. Inter cut among the acting of two real pros is John Rich, photographed in a dismal empty factory singing his original lamentation about the industry’s economic woes, affected auto workers and Wall Street.

It’s tough stuff. Click here. Also on You Tube same music but with images and graphics added obviously by a native Detroiter. has also put up another country and western song about the collapse of Detroit. (more…)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

This week's assortment of news, views and schmooze.

by on Apr.03, 2009

Exclusive New Consumer Research Predicts Monthly Automotive Brands Marketshare Points Gain or Loss

More than 300 different models of new cars are for sale in dealer showrooms right now. The important question is what are consumers with good credit scores going to buy in this scary market?

Oh, yeah … there’s that research of what “they” want according to focus panel BS. Much automotive research is based on the past — what the consumer has purchased and what they said they’d like in the future. Not what he or she is going to buy. And that’s rather important, make that vital data isn’t it? This has made it almost impossible to forecast or project sales demand with any degree of accuracy for automobile manufacturers, auto dealers and their advisors with confidence and reliability, until now! It’s a significant marketing tool that has been needed, especially now when the economy is in the ceramic receptacle. And it’s only here in MMM. 

Reliable Purchase Information           

There’s a respected marketing research firm, BIGreseach, LLC, with a unique focus on consumer purchase intentions. Every month 18,000 consumers respond to their syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey which monitors the pulse of potential buyers regarding what brands and products they plan to buy next month. That’s right, next month

A major national retailer uses this study to determine monthly inventory levels and promotional programs based on projected consumer purchase demand for the thousands of items known as SKUs or Shop Keeping Units. 

When I first learned about this research, I had an audible “ah hah” moment. 

Auto purchases intentions had not been part of the monthly study, but I convinced them to add a few important questions about automobile purchases. Respondents are now asked “if they are planning to buy a car next month?” if the answer is “No” nothing is done, but if the answer is “Yes” the research continues asking the following questions: 

  1. “What brand is your present car?
  2. “Is your first choice for consideration?
  3. “Is it your second choice?”

A few questions relating to buying that new vehicle are also asked: 

  1. “Current vehicle type?”
  2. “Type of vehicle under consideration?”
  3. “Price range expected to pay?

From the answers to the above BIGresearch develops a matrix detailing every brand mentioned, the percentage of current ownership by brand, the percent of 1st choice and 2nd choice to create an average percentage which then drives the calculation of the “share point percentage change.” This is the critical number because it relates directly to brand currently owned. 

Here’s how to read and understand the data. In the just released March 2009 study, Acura was owned by 0.7% of the people who said they were going to buy a new car; 3.2% of the Acura owners considered Acura their first choice, 1.3% as the second choice which resulted in an average of 2.6%. This resulted in a projected 1.93% SharePoint Gain for Acura this month. 

This study is nationally projectable based on the customers of the retailer; changes in current market penetration will vary based on their consumer demographics. And that’s easy to determine by looking at the brand currently owned. 

For ease of presentation, I will use the David Letterman Top 10 Winners and Losers format. Read ‘em and weep. Or smile and grin.

 Share Point Gainers/Winners, March 2009 Research 

Rank Brand Now Owned % Average Gain Point Up %
 1 Honda




 2 Lexus




 3 Cadillac




 4 Lincoln




 5 Acura




 6 Hyundai




 7 GMC




 8 BMW




 9 Nissan




10 Audi




Source: BIGresearch CIA Share point losers for March 2009. Car owned percentage
applies only to the people responding to the question,
"Do you plan to buy a new car next month?"  (more...)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

This week's assortment of news, views and schmooze.

by on Mar.27, 2009

Are Buff Books Becoming An Endangered Species?

Buff books no longer are flying high.

Buff books of all types no longer are flying high.

Hachette Filipacchi, the mega magazine publisher (owned by the French company Lagardere SCA) earlier this week announced it was offering several well known enthusiast publications — American Photo, Boating, Cycle World, Flying, Popular Photography and Sound & Vision for sale at “distressed” prices, according to the Delaney Report, a magazine industry newsletter.

Additionally, executives from France are in the U.S. “streamlining,” a synonym for cutting, slashing and reducing costs. 

What does the future hold for HF’s auto publications and the other auto-centric magazines? Based on the vital signs – ad income, ad pages and circulation – these are not healthy consumer sources of automotive information, reviews and of course big buck advertising programs.

Let’s look at the numbers from Publishers Information Bureau’s most recent report for a diagnosis and prognosis of advertising income and ad pages:

Automotive Magazines Analysis 2008 to 2007















Automobile Magazine














Car And Driver







Motor Trend







Road & Track







Robb Report







Magazine Totals







But they are not alone as forlorn objects on newsstands or in doctor’s waiting rooms.  The top ten automotive magazines as defined by Audit Bureau of Circulations, the bible of magazine circulation and page rates, details a fairly consistent level of circulation with Car and Driver the leader with 1.4 million readers, Motor Trend has 1.1 million subscribers, followed by Road & Track at 768,000, with Automobile Magazine 567,000, while numbers for AW were not available.

As most advertising media mavens acknowledge, these circulation numbers show a relatively high cost per thousand (CPM) compared to other mediums. While a loyal group of auto fans, they do not represent a major factor in the marketplace, except in a historical perspective. Stable circulation numbers but a loss in ad revenue and ad pages does not represent a healthy situation, which explains the drop in support by the auto ad big guns. It’s not working as well as it once did.

Other print domiciles with minimal auto related editorial content but with male content that once garnered hefty automotive advertising buys include Time, Newsweek, US Business Report, Fortune, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, Vanity Fair, Golf Digest New Yorker, Sports Illustrated and others are suffering mal de media – print media sickness. Their loss of ad dollars and pages has been damn near catastrophic.

In pandemic patterns, the Internet has afflicted and infected auto, male and other print mediums including many other titles and of course, newspapers with a virulent disease: loss of circulation, interest and advertising revenue!

Internet publications (there has to be a better term for them) can and do generate millions and millions of “hits” a month. Auto magazines cannot rack up numbers like these. They have an enthusiast base, not wide consumer appeal for potential new car buyers. Even the addition of websites for the buff books cannot come close to matching the huge volume of visitors to and KBB for their car buying information.

The new metrics world gives manufacturers’ accurate detail on the ROI of specific sites – they can track from hits to sales at dealers. It’s a numbers game and has changed the way automobiles are marketed.

There is no known cure, silver bullet, penicillin or antibiotic for the automobile focused publications, once the Touchstone of every automotive ad campaign.  One top editor – publisher told me this week, “We’ve changed they way we write and report for our website and the magazine readers. They are not the same!” (more…)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

The automobile industry's growing A.D.D. or Advertising's Disastrous Downturn.

by on Mar.20, 2009

The Human Toll


Advertising folks, while often maligned and denigrated, are resilient and resourceful.

To describe a recent visit to Ford’s Dearborn marketing offices only two words are needed: empty; sad.

Offices, cubicles, meeting rooms, break areas that were once filled with marketing professionals — talented, often dedicated creative people — were devoid of everything except remnants of their former life. Pictures, posters and paraphernalia of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury cars, trucks, SUVs, racecars and concepts were tacked or taped to walls literally waiting for someone to take them down. As it is they are simply fading into history.

Change the venue by simply substituting the name of another automotive brand from the Detroit Three. Only the vehicles change. The emptiness reigns supreme. Even international brands have fallen prey to this economic demon.

Change from the client to the agency side and the situation is duplicated. From the big name, big shops with big clients and big budgets to the sometimes big, but usually small creative services shops and suppliers — layoffs, cut-backs, pink slips, down-sizing, de-hires are epidemic and endemic.

Freelancers, the self-unemployed, who are hired on a project basis, have been virtually eliminated, even though they are not paid benefits. 

One longtime friend and a compassionate owner of a highly successful creative services company was near tears as he described the first time people had to be laid off from his company. “They’re not employees, they’re family,” he said, choking back emotion.

A former associate creative director entering advanced middle age, with a blended family ranging from pre-schoolers to near college-age kids, told me he was “terrified” of his future ability to earn a living … anywhere!

Professionally and personally, the misery is staggering in human terms. For those who have worked in automotive advertising industry there literally is no vocational future until the economic situation changes.  (more…)

Marty’s Marketing Minutia

A weekly compendium of opinions and reviews.

by on Mar.06, 2009

Black Diamond Run in San Francisco for AUDI Ad in Germany
Audi’s agency in Germany, Kempertrautmann in Hamburg, has created one helluva an exciting commercial for the Quattro. Spectacular footage, outstanding production values, music and talent. See how good and creative a commercial can be because it will not be seen on television in the U.S. This is a don’t miss ad.
Click here to see ad.

Is This Time For An Automotive Retail Revolution?
For posing this question, I’m probably at risk of being called an automotive marketing heretic … again. The first time was at the dawn of international brands, some 30+ years ago, when, as director of marketing services at Campbell-Ewald, I suggested auto dealers should be renamed and known as retailers. I was asked to leave the meeting.

The ensuing years have transformed this prescient statement into marketing fact. And while Webster doesn’t differentiate between the two nouns, I do. Granted, the distinction is subtle but the difference obvious. A dealer is seller of a specific brand or manufacturer within a designated market or area. Whereas a retailer can pick and choose the brands sold almost wherever they want.

But let’s face it, calling car dealers stores or retailers today is about all that has changed in the selling of automobiles to consumers. Look at national automotive advertising today versus the sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties – for the most part it’s repetitive and derivative. All that’s changed is the mix of media.