Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A General Motors exec's view on the auto industry and advertising


With my shiny new RSS feed to the print edition of Advertising Age via ProQuest, I came across an interview with Bob Lutz (subscription reqd), retiring executive vice chairman-global product development.

In the interview Bob state's a few telling points - telling because I think it shows that some organisations just don't get it, from products to promotion. Here are the key out-takes from the article:

The entire industry is almost in intensive care, and we are going to be burdened with very, very, very severe fueleconomy mandates from an administration that believes all we have to do is show a little goodwill and we can easily achieve 43 miles to the gallon. Whereas, in fact, technologically, nobody knows how to do that.


Back in the old days, you had ABC, CBS and NBC. If you took three spots on the "Dinah Shore Show," you had a Chevrolet commercial at the beginning, one in the middle and one at the end, and you knew that about 25 million Americans saw those three Chevy commercials. Today, with hundreds of channels, you don't know where to go anymore. I can go a whole month and not see a GM commercial on TV because I am not watching the channels we advertise on. I tend to watch the channels like American Film Classics or something where I am bombarded with ads for medication.


But by and large, the industrial companies definitely no longer have the budgets to where they can rely on advertising. So you see a lot of very effective viral advertising. ... If you do an extremely entertaining commercial to where people will copy it and pass it on, it comes a chain of progression, and that is a very good way to get the message out.


So what we see from Bob Lutz is even at the very head of the organisation, there is no answer, no ideas, no inspiration. Not on the products side of things and not on the promotion side of things.

Let's now mosey on over to the "Social Media" side of GM's business. By any company standard these people should be the real innovators. And it looks promising, GM has covered its bases: A wiki, blogs, YouTube, Twitter. Well done, you're engaging with the people!

Let's take a look at how GM is engaging ...

Generations of GM Wiki is an historical account based on facts ... it is not a discussion forum.

The GMnext wiki

For centuries, Utopians have dreamed of letting the old world burn and building a fresh new world just over the horizon. In the case of the auto industry, which holds a key to solving the global energy puzzle, such dreams are a dangerous diversion from the hard work at hand.

GM Fastlane blog

@GMblogs you guys are killing Saturn just as it was starting to get interesting. I.e., becoming Opel/Vauxhall North America
4:01 AM Feb 20th from TweetDeck in reply to GMblogs

@buffalopundit if the spin-off happens Saturn will essentially get to cut the cord and go back to it's roots
4:15 AM Feb 20th from TweetDeck in reply to buffalopundit

GMblogs on Twitter

Hmmm... me-thinks GM has a nasty case of corporate communications cough, you know, that nasty bug that infects good ideas with yes-men touting the company line.

Oh, but i did find something that was interesting and did want to make me listen. It was an obscure GM produced video that has received a whopping 718 views in just a little over ... a year and a half!

Dr. Lars Peter Thiesen, GM Europe, manager, Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Development, actually sounds like an engaging, well spoken, and informative man, interested in the work he is doing.

So my big question to GM, Bob Lutz, GM bloggers and wiki editors: Why do I have to suffer the pain of Detroit's bemoaning corporate communicators when I could be reading the inspiring words of people like Dr. Lars Peter Thiesen? Where is the Dr. Lars blog?

Bob Lutz, on your way out, maybe make a recommendation to cut a couple of million from the corporate communications division, get your employees to blog about the great work they are doing (they'll do it for free!) and put that saved money back into worthy R&D.

BTW I did actually learn something useful from the GM Wiki! GM made electric cars as far back as 1912. Makes me wonder what happened for 100 years ...

3 comments:

Alex Manchester said...

It's a shame to see Lutz go out like that. He was one of the poster boy "senior exec bloggers" with the Fastlane blog, spawning all the other GM social media stuff, but it does seem from that interview that he's lost his mojo.

What's also wrong from him is this:

The entire industry is almost in intensive care, and we are going to be burdened with very, very, very severe fueleconomy mandates from an administration that believes all we have to do is show a little goodwill and we can easily achieve 43 miles to the gallon. Whereas, in fact, technologically, nobody knows how to do that.

C'mon, Bob, BMW's new 330 diesel clocked a mean average of over 43mpg when doing road testing, performance testing and highway driving.

GM has some great products, seriously, but they just don't know what to do with them, and how to get new, exciting models to market fast enough (i.e. the new Camaro which has taken years despite massive demand).

Alex of Melbourne said...

Nice pick-up Alex! I'm sure there's enough examples out there these days to show that economical cars are possible. Maybe not your GMC Suburban's, but surely your smaller 4cyl cars.

Alex Manchester said...

To be honest, I feel the auto bailout is nothing to do with the cars or the companies, and everything to do with not letting the US economy and morale get thumped with the fatal blow of those companies collapsing in the current environment.