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September 25, 2009


Michele Miller

Great comparison, Holly. I, too, applaud GM for trying but as you say, has anything really changed? I know that GM is working internally to get a handle on things (including social media). But until they get an ad agency that gets what you're talking about, it will be the same-old, same-old.


I notice you've contrasted the two as "old-fashioned male" vs. "modern female". Is there "old-fashioned female" vs. "modern male" styles as well, or do you consider any masculine style to be old-fashioned by default?

Kat Gordon

Amen! As an advertising creative director, I am amazed at how many agencies don't have good female representation in their ranks. I have a true story posted at my website about an ad agency that was pitching a car account and used 16 men and 1 woman on their pitch team. When they didn't win the business, they blamed the potential client for not appreciating great work. It never occurred to these fellas that a team skewed so heavily male exposed that this agency didn't get the crucial truth about car buying: women influence 80% of automotive decisions. Thanks for highlighting this in such a clear way!

Chris Busch

Great post, Holly. Let's see, GM's chairman is telling us that GM's cars are better than anybody else's. No surprise there. It's a bit of a stretch for GM to be making such a guarantee, but it could also be interpreted as desperation, which does not play well with consumers. The 60-day return policy might get a few people who are in the market for a new car to "try" a GM vehicle, but I doubt it will get anyone off the sidelines GM has been building a reputation with both sexes for building inferior cars for decades. It will take more than a clever marketing gimmick to turn that around. I'm not sure the "Go ahead, make my day" - "May the best car win" approach is all that appealing to a male audience much less a female. My guess is the campaign will be a disappointment with males and a disaster with females. Keep us posted.

Tom Wanek

Incredibly well done analysis, Holly. I love the Toyota ad - both its message and style.

But I'm struggling with GM's message of offering a 60-day return policy. (I agree totally with you on its communication style.)

Let's put the message and strategy in context. Taking stock of the assets that both these companies possess, Toyota can put together such a message because of the historic dependability of its vehicles. GM cannot, and has little else going for it. The vast majority of car buyers probably aren't even considering a GM vehicle. And government handouts and bankruptcy don't help GM's image.

So how do you break through and enter the conversation? You send a bold signal of confidence. Not every consumer will perceive its message as being confident, some will perceive it as desperation. But GM's strategy is credible enough that it will raise plenty of eyebrows. The credibility of this message comes from GM's willingness to risk safety and well-being and put its butt on the line.

But as you mentioned, the return policy lacks relevancy. Most consumers will research vehicles via the Internet, giving them confidence in their purchase.

The bottom line: I applaud GM for taking a step in the right direction. This is a much better strategy than offering consumers employee pricing. But if GM really believed in the dependability of its vehicles, it would offer a bumper-to-bumper warranty that includes coverage on wear and tear items such as wiper blades, tires and brakes. No exceptions. No exclusions. No fine print.

Kevin Burke

Very poignant story and analysis Holly. The GM commercial doesn't even seem like they have the consumer in mind - feels more like a ad that a GM dealer would embrace. They are soooo behind and doomed with this way of thinking and more importantly, communicating.

Tiffany Jonas

This post is right on target. Kudos to the Toyota ad team, too, for appealing to both women and men with its commercial; we could use less "either/or" thinking. (The "woman in minivan driving kids to school" ads for women versus the adrenalin-pumping "speeding car crashing through glass, narrowly missing innocent bystanders" ads for men.)

Holly Buchanan

Fabulous comments folks. Thanks to all.

Tom - I agree that if GM really wants to push dependability, long-term and more inclusive warranties are the way to go.

Nick - by "old fashioned male" I mean strategies relied on in the past that may not be relevant to today's consumers. The "Talking head CEO" is one of those strategies.

I highlighted a more "modern male" strategy in my previous post about Ford using the Dirty Jobs host talking to folks in a ball cap. It's still male communication style, but they've moved away from the old-fashioned "We trust grey-haired executives in suit and ties" to "we trust regular folks who look like us and aren't afraid to get their hands dirty."

Question for all of you - how would you change the GM commercial to be more persuasive???

Chris Busch


Let's see. You have Ed Whitacre walking down the street of an average American neighborhood. In each driveway are parked two noticeably foreign cars. "Hello, I'm Ed Whitacre, new Chairman of General Motors. For years we've been getting our butts kicked by foreign competitors. We've been arrogant, and were too late realizing that "Made in America" wasn't enough if we weren't delivering the best cars in the world. But thanks to you, the American taxpayer, we've been given one last chance to get it right. So I have one goal, and that's to have Americans once again be able to say that General Motors cars are the finest on the planet. Check out our 60-day, no questions return policy. It's like having a test drive that lasts two months. My fellow Americans, give us a chance to win back a spot in your driveways, and a place in your hearts.

Tom Wanek

Here's my take:

1.) Chris Busch is spot on. Have the courage to reveal to the public that when you've been a dog for so long, its difficult to get out of the doghouse. Don't dance around the subject by stating that you had some doubts before taking your new job as head honcho of GM.

2.) Speak to a felt need. The ad never once mentions the words, "dependability" or "resale value."

3.) Give the viewer specifics. In the ad, Whitacre says, "I like what I've found." Exactly what is it that you like, and why are GM cars better?

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Very true.Good observation.Interesting comparisons you have presented here.Look forward to more such posts from you.They are very interesting to read.

Holly Buchanan

Chris and Tom - Bravo! I think GM should hire you two to do their advertising.


Great article Holly. Ad agencies need to have more women on the team, but they also need to hire consultants like us that specialize in the women's market. These types of mistakes are costly and can easily be avoided.

I love the Toyota ad. Long known for its dependability and reliability, they have added longevity into the mix. And they did it in a clever, appealing way.

The Ford ad that was referenced was also a great ad with a human focus and a relaxed causal style.

I do agree that GM’s concept of creating credibility with the public is good. The 60-day guarantee is not a bad idea, it just needed to be showcased differently. But as others mentioned, it is the execution that is stodgy and doesn’t draw the consumer in. I thought both the above creative ideas for GM by Tom and Chris were excellent. Women, and men, like apologies from companies they think have made mistakes, and GM certainly fits into that category. Focus on the WIIFM as the buyer rather than just the car company. Give more specifics, rather than “I like what I see” and provide some useful insight into how the “new” GM is going to be better as a car and company in an attention-grabbing way.

Jeff Lydon

Holy smokes Chris, that is a million dollar Ad, I bet you see a version of that this year, someone from GM is bound to read this article, I hope they pay you for your original idea...somehow I doubt it though.


Theres are good points that why GM miss the mark with women.I like that video which you have given.Its very good.This is nice article.

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I thought both the above creative ideas for GM by Tom and Chris were excellent. Women, and men, like apologies from companies they think have made mistakes, and GM certainly fits into that category

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Great article Holly. Ad agencies need to have more women on the team & i am appreciate it. Thanks

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I thought both the above creative ideas for GM by Tom and Chris were excellent. Women, and men, like apologies from companies they think have made mistakes, and GM certainly fits into that category

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