New GM Ad From McCann Spurs Backlash; Can Ed Whitacre Sell Cars?

Last Updated Sep 14, 2009 1:42 PM EDT

General Motors appears determined to ruin the one good idea it has emerging from bankruptcy: a 60-day guarantee on its cars. Drive it off the lot. Don't like the new car smell? Bring it back, get a refund.

Instead of touting that offer in ads that feature alluring examples of its new products, GM and McCann Erickson have wheeled out ... Ed Whitacre, the former chairman of AT&T, who knows nothing about cars, to say, "Before I started this job I admit I had some doubts."

BNET previously noted that this ad looks more like a ploy to secure McCann's role on the business than it does an ad that might sell cars. And AgencySpy noted:

... this ad went to review before the GM board, which Whitacre chairs. Now, who in that room was going to say, "this sucks" with Whitacre sitting right there?
So you can see that the ad had to please many more target markets -- Whitacre, McCann, Whitacre's underlings on the board -- before it actually addressed GM's potential customers. Which is why reaction to the ad has ranged from lukewarm to outright hostility. AgencySpy again:
It screams poop.
Adweek:
Does he think that viewers will look up and say, "Who is he? Oh right, yes, yes, yes. He's that former AT&T executive who announced he knew nothing about cars. Let's see what he has to say!"
A commenter on that same page:
... this will just worsen GM's crisis.
Ad Age:
... for most viewers, he's just the latest white-haired rich guy trying to sell you a bill of goods...
... maybe it's just another heartbreak for America: an insane risk attached to an outrageous lie.
Ad Age's commenters:
... hail-mary...
... desperate ...
And so on and so forth. And now we sit back and wait for the YouTube videos featuring people who try to return a GM vehicle and are given the runaround by GM's dealers.