Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The War of the Ad Worlds: Blue Collar vs High Collar. Who Will Win?

A friend of mine who’s in corporate PR read my blog yesterday about the TV ads that feature GM’s new president Ed Whitacre. After watching the video, my friend says he came away thinking that Whitacre wasn’t selling cars as much as he was selling a company.

“It was targeting a different audience than was a reassuring ad for the suits in DC and NY. You could probably see it as a follow up to this confidence builder [aka [Reinvention] ... What do you think?”

Not exactly, my friend. Yes, the Whitacre ad is talking to Wall Street and Congress. But Whitacre also is selling cars to you and me. He's helping us "trust" GM all over again. But why should we listen to this guy? Doesn't he represent the Wall Street pack that got us into trouble in the first place? Isn't that Texas drawl touted by GM's marketing director reminiscent of a former president whose final approval rating fell to 22 percent? Isn't Whitacre's white, male, upper class segment (Forbes reported his 5-year compensation total at $92.55 million) an abysmally small piece of the American population -- about 1 to 2 percent, some say? What makes us believe in or trust this itsy-bitsy, hyper-privileged viewpoint? Is it possible that -- even though we have, for all these years, relied on this group -- maybe now, we just won't?

Consider the difference between spokespeople Todd Ingersoll featured in Saturn's “We’re Still Here” ad and Jim Smith who appears in the Saturn “pundits” ad. These guys couldn't be more different from the white-haired affluence that is Ed Whitacre. Like a lot of America today, Ingersoll and Smith are of uncertain ethnicity (Italian? Black? Hispanic? Asian? American Indian? A mix? Who knows?). Moreover, they are car guys themselves, talking the common man's language about building cars that work in our lives. I suspect these Saturn ads have been successful, since they’re still playing.

So, yes, the bottom line question is: Who will America trust? Maybe it will be Ed Whitacre all over again, though his seems a peculiar Voice Choice for convincing a wildly diverse American demographic to trust GM.

On the other hand, as my friend pointed out, "I'd hire [Whitacre] for that job, too. Isn't the government really running the company anyway?"

And that is supposed to console us how?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. Amazing in his utter icon-acity, Ed Whitacre is a fabulously wealthy ex-CEO of AT&T, and an ex- national president of the Boy Scouts. Part of his appeal is pitched in the claim that, like the rest of us, he "doesn't know anything about cars." Again, that is supposed to console us how?

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