McCann's New GM Ads Indulge Chairman Whitacre; Actual Car Ads Coming Later

Last Updated Sep 10, 2009 12:08 PM EDT

General Motors will waste more money on ads that promote its corporate image rather than its cars. In a new spot, via McCann Erickson Worldwide, new GM Chairman Ed Whitacre will urge consumers to take a look at GM's remaining brands, according to Ad Age.

BNET readers will remember that GM did pretty much the same thing in a June ad via Deutsch that featured a man with one leg using a prosthetic to run, instead of cars.

The new ad will carry the theme "May the Best Car Win," according to the NY Times, and offer consumers a 60-day, money-back guarantee if they are not satisfied with the car. Specific car ads will follow the opening flight.

Given that consumers have not been clamoring "Give us more Whitacre!" it's worth asking: Why are Interpublic's agencies indulging GM with this nonsense?

Two reasons: First, with new clients in charge, IPG must shore up its relationship with them. Best way to do that? Put the boss in the commercial, guaranteeing the spot gets approval.

Second, IPG -- like everybody else -- has figured out that much of GM's ad budget this quarter and next will be a complete waste. The cash for clunkers program has already sucked most of the new-car money out of the market, therefore new ads won't do much to drive sales.

And GM's strategy of marketing 34 different models (and 25 new models between now and 2011) isn't focused enough to drive sales at the company, period, because the ad budget will be spread to thin across too many different brands.

(Bonus debate question for the dinner table tonight: Do Americans actually need 34 different cars?)

Faced with a company whose ads are doomed to fail and a new client with whom it must cement a relationship, McCann has opted to tug its forelock and shout, Yes sir! Three bags full, sir!

And finally: Bloomberg has a nice potted history of car execs who thought the best thing they could do was appear in their own commercials.