GM Advertising Gets Extreme Makeover From Bob Lutz; Company Nixes Sponsorships, Too

July 14, 2009
Bob Lutz 2004

Bob Lutz 2004

Bob Lutz has only been back in the saddle at General Motors since Friday, but in that short time, he's managed to wrangle control of the headlines and show people half his age how PR is done.

Among the items Lutz has shared with the press is news that General Motors will be making significant changes to the "tone and content" of its advertising. Rough translation: the General's PR machine will grow significantly more aggressive under Lutz's watch. To illustrate, when asked about a recent Buick ad, Lutz said, "Let me put it this way: that Buick commercial tested very well, which is not the same as saying that it's an effective ad." We're happy to see that "very well" isn't good enough anymore.

During yesterday's webchat on GM's FastLane blog, Lutz affirmed what many already knew: that General Motors needs a comprehensive rebranding campaign. As the man in charge not only of PR but also "creative elements of products", Lutz is perfectly positioned to see that campaign through. But way of example, Lutz compared the new Chevrolet equinox and the upcoming GMC terrain, saying that the two SUVs "don't even look like they were made by the same manufacturer." And to his mind -- and ours -- they shouldn't. In fact their differences should be highlighted in marketing materials to give each brand a distinct identity, separate from the one he's cultivating for General Motors as a whole.

On a related PR note, a federal judge has agreed that the new General Motors Company can bail on a number of sponsorship deals, including billboards and naming rights at stadiums and high profile events like the Daytona 500 and the Arnold Palmer invitational golf tournament. Perhaps most shocking (at least to traditionalists) is the fact that this ruling allows GM to end its sponsorship of the Chevrolet clock in Times Square, where the company has been a fixture since the 1930s. These are huge changes for GM -- and positive ones that give Lutz the opportunity to recast GM's numerous brands in his own image. It's hard to imagine a better situation for an incoming marketing veep; now let's see if Lutz can pull it off.

[AutoNews, sub req'd; DetNews]

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