General Motors gave thanks this holiday week to the millions of taxpayers who helped bail them out last year. The timing of the ad is at least better than Chrysler's failed attempt at thanks in 2009 when they thanked people using a full page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today right after they received the bailout money. At least, GM had the sense to wait for a thank you the week after they went public with their IPO and return to investor financing.
I see two desired outcomes GM wants from this particular ad. One to energize people who like the brand. Second is to get people to see GM has a fighter that didn't just lay-down after it got its money. They want people who have lost faith in GM to know the brand is getting up, not giving up and wants to be seen as a survivor and champion.
The imagery used in the ad is all about not giving up. It shows several historical and socially recognizable clips when it looked over, but the people in the ad did not give up and found the strength to win.
The biggest criticism I can see from the imagery used is that all if it showcases individuals who got back up using their own freewill and not through a helping hand. No one gave the boxer a 5-hour energy drink, shoulder massage and pep talk to rise up from the mat. Sure someone helped Evel Knievel up from his accident but he got back on the bike himself and kept going.
The Henry S. Truman image makes no sense. That was just the Chicago Tribune showing how low their opinion was of Truman. There was no falling down, just miscalculation.
Perhaps Popeye is the most relevant image as he gets his boost from an outside source - spinach. But unlike Wimpy, Popeye probably didn't have to borrow the money today with the promise of paying it back Tuesday. Cynics might think Wimpy was the better image to use..?
It would be interesting to see how they tested this ad. Did GM bring in people upset with the bailout or did they focus test against people open to seeing GM as independent again. My guess is more the latter. Perhaps it has a chance of getting people 'on the fence' to see GM as a fighter and survivor.
Personally, I think they are fighting the good fight. GM has not laid down and they are trying hard to win back public opinion. Unfortunately, this ad falls down in its ability to recycle history as a way to repair GM's image. Fortunately, their new products are giving them a true fighting chance.