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Obama Halves Chrysler's Planned Marketing Budget

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Task Force Agrees Automaker Needs Advertising -- Just Not $134 Million Worth

DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Chrysler wanted to spend $134 million in advertising over the nine weeks it's expected to be in bankruptcy -- the U.S. Treasury's auto-industry task force gave it half that.

So if GM, which is wrestling with the possibility of a Chapter 11 filing itself, is wondering how much influence the task force will have over marketing, the answer is: plenty. However, transcripts from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Southern District of New York, where the Chrysler case is being heard, proved for the first time that the task force at least understands that advertising is a necessary expense -- even if it doesn't think Chrysler needs $134 million for nine weeks of car ads.

Robert Manzo, executive director of Capstone Advisory Group and a consultant to Chrysler, testified at a May 4 hearing that the task force "believed that it was not feasible to not spend anything on marketing and advertising for fear of eroding the image of the brand," during the company's planned nine weeks in bankruptcy. However, Mr. Manzo also testified that this "hotly discussed" matter resulted in the task force basically slashing in half the amount Chrysler wanted for advertising in the period.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Arthur Gonzalez then asked the witness: "Idle plants, why market?" referring to Chrysler's shutdown of its factories for nine weeks. "The belief on all sides was that it was essential for Chrysler not to lose its brand image in the marketplace," Mr. Manzo testified. "Advertising and marketing dollars are critical to make sure the right message is out there about Chrysler, what's happening to Chrysler during this interim period and why Chrysler will be a brand going forward that is one that a consumer should continue to look at as one of their purchase opportunities."

Indeed, that's what the automaker is attempting with a national TV campaign from BBDO, Detroit, that's running in prime time on ABC, NBC and Fox to try to calm consumers' fears about the future of its Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler vehicles. The first of two 30-second spots is dubbed "Bright Future," and it refers to Chrysler's reorganization and alliance with Fiat that will build a "meaner and leaner" company for the future. The push is a departure for Chrysler, which earlier this year cut network broadcast out of its budget in favor of more inexpensively priced local TV.

Outcry

Steven Landry, Chrysler exec VP-sales and marketing, said in a statement that the effort "gives us the opportunity to reinforce that it's business as usual and demonstrate a bright future ahead for Chrysler." That sentiment, however, struck a discordant note with some Ad Age readers after a story on the campaign was published on AdAge.com. "Business as usual? Isn't that what got American car companies in trouble in the first place? Business as usual gave us cars no one wanted to buy, zero innovation, outdated labor practices and a lot of taxpayer money thrown in to keep a sinking ship from going under," commented Jeff from Boston. "How about some unusual business -- like a successful American car company?"

Consideration for Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles on Edmunds.com did jump 15% in the days after the company filed for bankruptcy April 30, the auto site reported. But news of the filing attracted buyers looking for rock-bottom sticker prices; dealers said customers made "outrageously low offers" for Chrysler vehicles expecting them to take any price, Edmunds said. The consideration boom lasted only five days and is now back to previous levels in spite of Chrysler's new incentive program, which can add up to $6,000 per new vehicle purchased through June 1.

While Chrysler's filing lists BBDO as its second-largest unsecured creditor, owed $58.1 million, one executive close to the matter said the agency will be paid. The executive said the auto task force agreed to Chrysler's plan to give the ad agency "critical supplier" status, which moves it up the payment list. A Chrysler spokeswoman refused to confirm that information; an auto-task-force representative did not respond to calls for comment by press time.

As Chrysler prepares to spend the $67 million the task force approved, GM is cutting back as it tries to slim down to satisfy a June 1 deadline set by the Treasury's auto task force. Few, however, believe GM can avoid following Chrysler into bankruptcy court.

Reduced spending

GM reduced ad spending "some" in the first quarter, Chief Financial Officer Ray Young revealed last week in a conference call about the company's $6 billion global loss in the period. He noted in the call that GM is closely following Chrysler's procedures "in case we have to go through it."

Charts GM shared on its investor website during the call show $300 million of the $3.1 billion in spending it cut globally in the first quarter was in advertising. Although the figure was worldwide, most of the slicing likely happened in North America, since the region accounted for nearly half GM's total loss. And the auto giant told Uncle Sam it will trim $800 million from advertising this year.

A GM spokeswoman declined to comment. GM's chief financial officer said talk of bankruptcy has already had "a lot of impact" on the market, although he was unable to quantify how much of GM's first-quarter market-share loss was directly tied to that (GM said its North American share fell to 17.9% from 21.7% a year ago). "We just need to get out of the front page of the newspaper every day, and get this thing behind us," he said.

By Jean Halliday

http://adage.com/article?article_id=136552

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GM should run, and file chapter 11 no pre-packaged government control deal. The bond holders are the only hope left for the company.

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GM should run, and file chapter 11 no pre-packaged government control deal. The bond holders are the only hope left for the company.

The government will be involved, pre-packaged or not. GM already borrowed $14 billion, and will need more to keep running through bankruptcy. The government will be in control either way.

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The government will be involved, pre-packaged or not. GM already borrowed $14 billion, and will need more to keep running through bankruptcy. The government will be in control either way.

Yep and that really bites!

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The government will be involved, pre-packaged or not. GM already borrowed $14 billion, and will need more to keep running through bankruptcy. The government will be in control either way.

Christ I hope not, too much government will be in a traditional chapter 11 filing would make a bad situation even worse. They need to pay the tax payers back and start with a FRESH company and a clean slate!

Edited by gm4life
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The headline on this article is very misleading. I doubt President Obama was the one who made this decision.

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They are not helping in this instance. They are hurting. That's been the fear all along.
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The headline on this article is very misleading. I doubt President Obama was the one who made this decision.

i thought that too. when i saw the title it intrigued me because i was thinking wow he fires one guy but cuts the ad campaign of another? then in the first paragraph it says

Chrysler wanted to spend $134 million in advertising over the nine weeks it's expected to be in bankruptcy -- the U.S. Treasury's auto-industry task force gave it half that.

the title for the thread came straight from the title at the article fwiw

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The headline on this article is very misleading. I doubt President Obama was the one who made this decision.

Yeah but its just easier to pin blame (or give credit) for EVERYTHING on/to the president. See Bush.

This has to be one of the dumbest things I've ever heard. When you are in a weakened state like this you need to ATTRACT as many customers as possible, not just SOME.

wtf kind of logic is this... this is almost as stupid as the "ill just cut my front office workforce" idea to cut costs. Sure it cuts costs, but it makes customer service so awful that you lose more money from lost sales than you gained from cost cutting.

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I've said this before, and every day I believe it more.

The administration doesn't want to save GM and Chrysler, they just want to slow down the dying process so that the economy can absorb the hit.

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Horrible. Treasonous. Hopefully not true.:(
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what the Gov is doing can't be lawful anyway.

GM should have done what China did, buy gold, with their bailout money. LOL or sometihng maybe a little more volitile, like rhodium. heheheh

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I've said this before, and every day I believe it more.

The administration doesn't want to save GM and Chrysler, they just want to slow down the dying process so that the economy can absorb the hit.

Yea and that is pretty sad when they don't even want to help out their own American companies anymore. All they worry about is money, and when this country was formed I think it was built on better principals then what they are doing now.

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I've said this before, and every day I believe it more.

The administration doesn't want to save GM and Chrysler, they just want to slow down the dying process so that the economy can absorb the hit.

This administration is doing just that & worse.

Disgusting. I just can not read this revolting bullcrap anymore.

I would be FOR cutting Chrysler's ad budget in half, if we had

cut the throats & burned the bodies of every & any executive

in ANY industry who stole or otherwise manipulated taxpayer

money for a disgustingly huge bonus!

Why is every other industry, esp. the crooks in banking &

finance immune to this kind of criticism?

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