Chevrolet, which is the major corporate sponsor of the Al Gore “Liveearth” – on TV opposite the Daytona NASCAR race Saturday night – will use the concert as the launch pad for a major advertising campaign designed to promote what the GM unit calls “its far-reaching approach to reducing petroleum consumption.” The ads will also be carried on MSN and its various permutations, such as Windows Live Spaces, Messenger, and Hotmail. 
 
The ad campaign will continue well beyond the concert’s end, however. It features a multi-media mix of print and online ads featuring E85 FlexFuel vehicles, Chevrolet fuel efficient vehicles, and Chevrolet’s commitment to alternative technologies, such as fuel cells. The campaign will include a sixteen page insert in select publications and a six page advertisement in automotive enthusiast publications. There will be full page ads in USA Today and in various local circulation newspapers. Radio gets ads, too: both on network radio and XM.
 
The nature and timing of this public relations blitz is almost as fascinating as the venue chosen to start it. 
 
Chevrolet clearly isn’t going to sell very many cars with this ad campaign. Though they do have a few hybrid trucks and SUVs on the market and a hybrid version of the new 2008 Malibu has been seen in apparent production trim, Chevrolet currently has nothing to compete with the Toyota Prius, in either image or marketplace. Though rumors abound about the possible production of the Chevrolet Volt, they are conflicting and it is not clear when that vehicle will actually go on sale. Moreover, if the Volt does hit the market as a fuel cell vehicle, General Motors won’t need a huge ad campaign to get the environmentally friendly message out.
 
No, this ad campaign – designed by Cambell-Ewald, the ad agency used by Chevrolet since the 1950’s – is aimed at a different audience, and has a different purpose. Those who most hate Detroit automakers, GM in particular, are the same liberal Democrats that are most invested in the environmental cause. It was this group of legislators in the United States Senate that adopted draconian fuel economy standards in the recent “energy bill,” standards which Detroit is adamant could bankrupt the industry. The automakers still have a chance of heading off this legislation in the House of Representatives, and they have more clout there: the Chairman of the Energy Subcommittee is John Dingell, a representative from Michigan.
 
Nonetheless, it must be clear to the automakers that they need to have a more attractive image with this political group than they have at present. So, they’re trying to buff their image, perhaps in hopes that it will give them the narrow edge that may be all that’s needed to prevent disastrous changes in the current corporate average fuel economy standards.
 
Will it work?
 
Don’t bet on it.
 
British Petroleum has been pursuing a similar green ad campaign for the last two years. They seem to be as politically despised as ever, as the increase in gasoline prices and oil company profits allows them to be painted as typical greedy oil companies. Phillip-Morris has pursued a “stop smoking” ad campaign for over five years. Tobacco companies are still among the favorite targets of litigation and legislation.
 
It is always dangerous to adopt your opponent’s basic premise. The emphasis on fuel efficiency in this ad campaign establishes that fuel efficiency is vitally important to the environment. 
 
If that’s the case, how can anyone in good conscience oppose raising the mileage standards sky high, all to protect the planet? By going to such lengths to acknowledge that the automobile is the enemy of the environment, GM sends the wrong message.

What do you think?
Show Comments
Car Finder: