Friday, July 31, 2009

Buick’s “Photo Shoot” the Symptom, Not the Cause

Since Bob Lutz was put in charge of all things marketing at General Motors, one campaign has taken the brunt of the criticism. The first TV Spot from the campaign is “Photo Shoot” which launched Buick’s new flagship sedan the LaCrosse.

Why all the attention?

Autoblog claims “the 2010 Buick LaCrosse is the most important vehicle launched by the brand in decades.” Whether that is entirely true or not, we at least know the car market is very important and Buick really needs a wining product to fill GM’s need to remake the Buick brand with premium luxury-like products and the LaCrosse fits that need perfectly.

Buick - Cadillac’s Pestering Luxury Brand:

Four brands remain in the New GM: Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac. Chevrolet is definitely the mass appeal brand, while Cadillac remains GM's luxury brand. GMC is a dedicated truck and SUV brand even though it is just a bunch of me-too Chevy and Cadillac products. Buick, meanwhile, is slotted between Chevy and Cadillac and is supposed to be a premium brand that will butt heads with Cadillac for years to come. Many think Buick only survived because of its success in China, but that’s nonsense. GM didn’t have to keep the brand in the States to keep it in China.

What’s most interesting is that Buick is going after similar competitors its sister brand Cadillac is after too. The Lexus ES350 is in Buick LaCrosse’s sight and the Cadillac SRX is running a campaign chasing the Lexus RX350. So which one is really the luxury brand?

Enter “Photo Shoot”

The TV spot treats the car and SUV like fashion models that are being shot by a hip photographer. The setup is to convince the viewer that the Buick is an unexpected subject for the ultra-cool design crowd. It is meant to disrupt consumer impression of the brand and get viewers to think of the Buick LaCrosse and Enclave as upscale, cool products.

Whether it is successful at doing all of that I’m sure someone in the marketing department will prove out with consumer research and BEAT metrics showing how well the TV spot is changing consumer perception.

Bob Lutz looked at the ad and slammed the testing saying, “that Buick commercial tested very well, which is not the same as saying that it's an effective ad." What does Bob mean? I think he means does it really get buyers to consider the Buick LaCrosse. We’ll see but we at least know the new guy in charge of marketing won’t give marketing the credit if sales are meeting or exceeding expectations.

Blame the Creative

The saddest part of the “Photo Shoot” public criticism is that the creative independent Gary Topolewski who developed the spot is getting most of the blame. Topolewski tried to downplay the attention by telling Automotive News, “the idea was to gain attention for Buick, which I think it surely did." He’s right, but the attention isn’t the kind you want from your client or client’s client.

Campaigns are not developed in a vacuum. In fact, we learn from a recent Ad Age article that Buick’s own VP of Sales and Marketing for North America, Mark LaNeve, was the one who “urged” the agency Leo Burnett Chicago to hire Topolewski. But even that is not the issue. The creative concept had to come from a Creative Brief developed out of brand planning and approvals of the TV spot from Topolewski had to undergo multiple layers of approvals I’m certain, before it ever showed up on anyone’s television set.

All of this doesn’t mean Bob Lutz is wrong. The Creative Brief that became the inspiration for “Photo Shoot” probably struggled to find what a brand does when it isn’t luxury but wants to be luxury but can’t be too luxury because Cadillac is the luxury brand.

Fortunately, the Buick LaCrosse is getting some solid reviews and the product may save the marketing provided the tweaks to the LaCrosse advertising campaign can calm some of the public ugliness going on and nothing can be more effective than some great sales results to forget about “Photo Shoot.”

1 comment:

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