Posts Tagged ‘GM’

The power and the pain of falling down

November 30, 2010

Things have slowed down here a lot with the end of political season, last week was the first time in a long while I didn’t post once.  If you’re missing Ad Nauseam, check out my Twitter feed, a lot the action has moved over there, with short comments and links to things I think are interesting or relevant in one way or another.  Still, I’ll be trying to post here once or twice a week or more if I see things that are interesting to me and require more than 140 characters to discuss.

Like this ad from GM:

Wow. This ad is a strange one for me to review, I’ve put it off because I wanted to really nail down what I thought, but at the end of the day, I’m not any closer to that for a simple reason, this ad really leaves me conflicted.

On one hand, there are things I absolutely love about this ad. The music is great, I really appreciate the lack of voice over, and the simple CG at the end “We all Fall Down… Thanks for Helping Us Get back Up again… GM 1908.” Those words imply humbleness, give the impression of the company as a scrapper (who doesn’t love the underdog), but also recall that the company is an American icon, part of the fabric of industry that made America a great country. That’s good writing.

The ad does a great job of stringing the audience along, what do these scenes have in common, where is this leading, how will it payoff? There’s no big boast, no big claim, just a message of thanks. In some ways that’s the best advertising for the company, GM is like us, we stumble, we fall, but we have to get back up (sometimes with help), that’s America.  The emotional appeal of the ad allows the consumer to relate with the company in way that a laundry list advertisement (listing attributes or a plan) never could.

So why don’t I love this ad? Why don’t I think it’s a home run?  Because I think the images and the execution are not up to the appeal.  I love the rocket collapsing, and Evil Kenevil crashing, but Popeye and Animal House?  Those guys aren’t even real, how can we relate to them?  The Truman image could be powerful, but it feels out of place here, where each other sequence gets a fall and a getting up, the Truman photo tried to be both.

The boxing shot is fine, but what about a sport that’s not so old fashioned, what about a baseball player giving up a homerun, and the manager comes out to boost him up.  Or a parent helping a child who’s fallen off their bike (or a child helping a parent who is sad), those are just off the top of my head, sitting in Starbucks writing this blog post.  There must be at least 10 other iconic images they could have used that would have been more powerful than Popeye, Animal House, and Truman.

This is a good ad, I just feel it could have been so much better. I’d be interested to hear why they chose the images they did? Was it a cost issue? A brand or metaphor issue? Some other deep thought? Or just that’s the way it worked out.

GM Re:Invent

June 5, 2009

While I’m not sure if this ad falls within the mission statement of the blog, with all the issues around government ownership of GM, I imagine the audience for this ad is as much policy makers as consumers.

That’s a rationalization.  The reality is that I really wanted to review this ad for two simple reasons: 1) it’s not often that I see an ad that surprises me and makes me say wow; and 2) this ad surprised me and made me say, wow.

Reading some of the comments on Advertising Age, I thought I was crazy — most of the  comments were along the lines of this blog post: the ad misses the mark, its not going to change anything,  there’s nothing new here, how does this help GM?

When I showed it to Nora my wife, she had the same reaction as me, “wow.”

So maybe I’m not crazy or maybe we’re just a perfect match.

Form (on a scale A-F): A-

Ads, like movies fall, into genres — a series of conventions: stylistic, subject, sometimes legal requirements.  Think of beer ads or prescription drug ads or hell, while we’re on the subject, political ads or car ads.  Each one might be unique, but they also tend to be similar in many ways not related to product.

Breaking convention can be genius, like this Volkswagen ad (one of my all time favorite ads) or disaster (no examples of those off the top of my head).  I think this ad pushes the bounds of the car ad genre, plays with your expectations, and surprises the viewer with images and voiceover that are at times literal and at times unexpected and lyrical.

I find the images compelling: the runner with the prosthetic leg, the bridge with the sun glaring through, the house being built.  There’s something iconic about the images, though they’re not the usual iconic images.  They speak to resolve (the tattered flag in the hurricane), to toughness.  It’s America, but not the America we’re used to in car commercials.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the copy.  I think this is an incredibly smart and well written ad, conversational in tone, yet conveying important information. “There was a time eight brands made sense, not anymore.” It’s simple and direct; you don’t need to understand branding and marketing to understand what they’re saying.

I also love the quality of the narrator’s voice, not the usual voice of God in car commercials, but strong and matter of fact.

Function (on a scale A-F): A-

Here’s where I think the naysayers are missing the point of this ad.  It’s not trying to sell cars per se, it’s trying sell GM.  Why is that important? Because I think consumer faith in GM is low.  Who would want to buy a car from a dying company that makes crappy cars to begin with?

Watching this ad, I want it to be true.  Odd, right?  I’m not a car guy, I didn’t grow up worshiping at the alter of the American car, yet this commercial taps into something.  Maybe it’s the Hero’s Journey quality: the hero (GM), beaten and humiliated by hubris, must start again, from nothing.  He must rebuild himself, but in this new birth he finds humility and strength he didn’t know he had to create something greater and more meaningful than he had before. Think of the end of “An Officer and A Gentleman”:  Mayo, broken by the death of his best friend, must face his demons one more time before becoming the officer and gentleman that the title promises (thanks to ““The Writer’s Journey,” for the example — a great guide into the hero’s journey for those who dare not brave Joseph Campbell).

Is that too much from one car commercial?  I’m not sure it is.

This ad sets the stage for that re-birth, the RETURN from the dead into the world of the living.

While I did ask myself, is any of this true?  I quickly decided I’m not sure if that matters yet.  I want it to be true, which is enough for now.  It’s up to GM to make good on the promise it’s made here.  A key element to any commercial is honesty and truth. This commercial starts with “Let’s be honest.” And there is an honesty here.  Admitting mistakes of the past is a big deal for any company and it makes me more likely to believe what they have to say after that.

Final Grade (on a scale A-F): A

Why an A?  Well, I added a little extra for effort.  The ad, while not groundbreaking in execution, is honest and very well crafted.  It delievers information in an emotional way.

The ad helps GM to frame their own :60 story outside of the media.  They’re not a company in Chapter 11 (“The only chapter we’re focused on is chapter 1”);  Its a mythic story about a company that was too out of step, too big, and too proud, a company that failed and now sees its sins, a company that is striving to reinvent itself.  That’s a powerful story to my mind.

It’s a story that touches on patriotism and the strength of the American character, it touches on the epic, the Hero’s Journey, and it touches on the angst we all feel in these changing times — facebook, twitter, terrorism, a changing economy, jobs being outsourced, etc.

Of course, the proof will be in the pudding: is this a hoax or real?  I don’t know, but I do know it got me curious to see what GM does next, which is something I would not have said before watching this commercial.

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