Friday, November 03, 2006

New tune for Silverado

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
New tune for Silverado
GM, which is launching patriotic ad campaign this weekend, expects new truck to be key to turnaround.
Bill Vlasic / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. will launch its new Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck with a heavy dose of patriotism and a new song from heartland rocker John Mellencamp.

The marketing blitz for the 2007-model Silverado kicks off this weekend with television ads that link "our country" with "our truck" -- an indirect comparison to the upcoming pickup from Japanese rival Toyota Motor Corp.

GM marketers said Monday that the ad campaign taps into research that shows American truck buyers connect to patriotic themes at a time when U.S. automakers are losing overall market share to foreign manufacturers.

"The Chevrolet Silverado is the sum total of the American experience," said Gary Pascoe, an executive with GM's ad agency, Campbell-Ewald. "No other country can build this truck -- not Japan, not Korea, not Germany."

GM expects the new Silverado to be a key financial contributor to its corporate turnaround and a cornerstone of its 2007-model product offensive.

With gas prices falling, auto analysts say the pickup market should be primed for the launch of the new Silverado and its GMC-branded twin, the Sierra.

"I think these trucks are going to sell very well," said David Healy of Burnham Securities. "The segment is shrinking a little bit, but the demand should be strong for an all-new model."

GM is pulling out all the stops with a marketing campaign that includes an interactive Web site, specially produced 24-page magazine inserts, and a 28-minute television "infomercial" that features retired football star Howie Long.

At the heart of the TV ads is Mellencamp's new song "Our Country," an emotionally charged anthem that extols the American spirit in the face of difficult challenges.

The song, which has yet to be released publicly, is paired in one ad with newsreel-style footage of the civil rights struggle, the Vietnam War and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"The point is (that) every time America gets knocked down, we find a way to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps," Pascoe said.

Other ads portray working-class Americans on the job, at play and with their families. The tag line -- "This is our country. This is our truck." -- has a clearly patriotic appeal.

But the theme has less to do with foreign competition than with GM's stature as the No. 1 U.S. automaker, said Chevrolet executive Kim Kosak.

"It's not anti-anybody," said Kosak. "We want to speak to anybody who wants to come into the full-size pickup category. It's very embracing of the American culture."

Besides its mainstream TV ads, GM has also produced a special 90-second football-themed spot that opens NBC's "Sunday Night Football in America." The automaker also has produced one ad solely for broadcast in Texas, the largest pickup market in the country, as well as specific ads for the growing Hispanic market.

The Silverado is GM's top-selling product, and the second-best selling U.S. vehicle behind Ford Motor Co.'s F-series pickup. Analysts are hardly surprised that GM will tug as many patriot heartstrings as possible to support the Silverado launch.

"They are not going to let the 'good old boys' drift away from the Silverado," Healy said.

The Silverado launch is expected to cost an estimated $300 million, according to advertising trade publications. The all-out effort, however, has taken GM marketers in some new directions.

GM will produce custom-published inserts for magazines that appeal the truck-buying population such as Motor Trend and Field and Stream.

The automaker is also venturing into a new media format with its "infomercial" starring Long and Gary White, GM's top truck executive.

You can reach Bill Vlasic at (313) 222-2152 or

© Copyright 2006 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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