Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Looking Back to the Great Depression to Predict the Next Automotive Campaign

We are definitely in a recession. No doubt about it. Are we in a depression? No, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the greatest economic downturn in our history. Yesterday’s inauguration not only marked the beginning of Barack Obama’s Presidency; it also meant a ton of advertising from Pepsi Cola as they launched their Refresh Everything campaign.

The Refresh Everything launch gave a platform for citizens to share what they wanted to say to our new President. It combined some YouTube video upload functionality and came packaged with celebrity videos promoting everyone to engage with Pepsi’s call to share your words to the President. It was actually a decent campaign idea for a broad appeal product like Pepsi and linked the idea of the big change (aka “refresh”) everyone expected on January 20th.

It made me wonder what can we expect from automotive advertising as the recession deepens and marketing turns to use the language of the times? So, I went back into history via Google, of course, and found an example used during the height of the Great Depression. The Plymouth advertisement (above) ran in 1935 and used the headline "New Deal for Farmers" playing off of President Roosevelt's famous "New Deal" economic policy.

The Plymouth ad shows how little has changed in 74 years. "High-Powered", "World's Safest", and "Long-Life". Today's version: "0-60 in xxx", "5 Star Crash Rating", and "JD Power Quality Award". The "Saves 12% to 20% in Gas and Oil" line made me think of Toyota's latest ad for the Tundra where they claim less transmission fluid needs than their competitors.

So we have some language already in play in the economic environment: Change and Bail Out. I have already heard radio ads from a local mortgage company advertising; “it’s time for your own bail out with our refinance mortgage options…” It’s only a matter of time before Obama’s call for Change becomes a marketing campaign.

Drive Change. Get behind the wheel of Change. It’s time to change your keys. Change how you get there. Oh I can do this for hours, but I’ll spare you and wait for the Change language to make it into an automotive sales event or product launch.

I’m guessing GM will do it. They did “Keep America Rolling” after 9/11. The clock is ticking who will borrow Obama’s language first?

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