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GM’s Lutz says he has no plans to fire ad agencies Marketing chief says shops need direction, must ‘move the needle’ JAMIE LAREAU AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

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THIS ARTICLE BELONGS TO AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

GM’s Lutz says he has no plans to fire ad agencies

Marketing chief says shops need direction, must ‘move the needle’

JAMIE LAREAU

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

JULY 29, 2009 - 2:56 PM ET

UPDATED: 7/29/09 4:18 P.M. ET

DETROIT -- General Motors Co.'s newly appointed marketing chief, Bob Lutz, said he has no immediate plans to review or fire the automaker's advertising agencies even though he publicly criticized a recent Buick ad campaign.

Instead, Lutz, 77, told Automotive News he plans to take a more hands-on approach to shaping GM's marketing and advertising.

Lutz said he is meeting with some of GM's ad agencies this week. He has asked them to come up with several creative ideas. While he declined to say the deadline he's given them, he acknowledged GM needs to move fast -- within the next three to six months -- to improve the public's perception after it spent 39 days in federal bankruptcy protection.

Agencies that can't show results eventually will get reviewed, he said.

"If after strong senior management direction, the agency, for some reason, repeatedly fails to come up with a product where the customer says, "Yes! That's exactly what I want' and fails to move the needle, then obviously you start reviewing the agency," Lutz said.

"But to come into a job and not look at the way the company has approached marketing and the way the company has directed its marketing and just fire agencies and keep your internal system in place -- the new agency will give you exactly the same advertising that your old agency did."

The car as 'hero'

Lutz said the creative process too often occurs from the bottom up and that "there's usually a lack of senior management involvement."

"I will always give existing agencies a chance because as one agency head once told me in my career, 'The way the American automobile companies deal with agencies is almost a system that prevents brilliant advertising,'" Lutz said.

The message Lutz wants from GM's ad agencies is one that ensures the car is the "hero."

"I don't want happy employees on the screen saying how much they enjoyed building the car," Lutz says. "I want an interesting ad that's memorable. I want people to have a positively changed perception after viewing the ad."

GM filed for bankruptcy protection June 1 as U.S. auto sales stagnated at 27-year lows. The automaker emerged from protection July 10 with $50 billion in backing from the U.S. government.

Lutz had been GM's vice chairman of product development for the past eight years. When GM emerged, he postponed retirement to become vice chairman of marketing and communications with some oversight of design.

Lutz, with GM's first-half U.S. vehicle sales down 40.4 percent, began shaking up GM's marketing and advertising strategies almost right away. In a rare move for a senior executive, he publicly criticized recent ads for the Buick LaCrosse.

When Lutz worked at Chrysler from 1986 to 1998, the automaker did some breakthrough advertising, he recalls. He credits that to former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca spending a lot of his personal time on marketing.

Lutz is critical of the marketing and advertising process used by many large corporations -- a process that he believes actually hinders creativity.

"It's much like a sausage machine. Many people at the operating level check to make sure this message is here and 'let's not forget this piece and let's not do that because this may offend this group of people,'" Lutz said.

So by the time senior management see a proposed ad, Lutz said it becomes "this highly sanitized product that is often devoid of any risk or breakthrough capability."

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I think Lutz and Jeremy Clarkson would get along. Both advocate dictatorships and have little patience for limp-wristedness.

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I think he is tired of the same crap we have seen for years and is not in a place wher he can do something about it.

A cars image is everything. You create a great image of a car and the preception is it is a great car no matter if it is or not.

How do you think they sell so many Camrys and Accords. Ferrari sold cars o image for years when they were built like crap in the 70's and 80's. Even Chevy sold the Vette on image in the 70's when it came with a Vega steering wheel and about 180 HP.

On the other hand there have been some good cars with little image that have faded way because of the lack of.

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I think he is tired of the same crap we have seen for years and is not in a place wher he can do something about it.

A cars image is everything. YOU create a great image of a car and the preception is it is a great car no matter if it is or not.

GM needs to repeat that to itself over and over again. For years it has failed to INFORM the consumer and has instead trusted the fate of its models into the hands of the enemy (the media) If the media already hates the company or is jaded about the brand, they're not going to do a very good job of promotion.

LIFE...101

Edited by FUTURE_OF_GM
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