GM Drops Another Ad Bombshell, This Time on the Super Bowl


Just a few days after General Motors CMO Joel Ewanick upset the Facebook IPO apple cart by announcing he’s pulling his FB ad budget (even while promising to keep up free engagement with fans on the site), the world’s largest automaker dropped another bombshell today: Ewanick revealed that he’s planning to take GM advertisements out of the next Super Bowl, too.

It’s a surprising reversal of strategy for a company that has gone big for advertisements in the last several Super Bowls, with a handful of spots for Chevrolet and Cadillac in Super Bowl XLVI this past February. GM executives had consistently touted not only the direct impressions created by advertising their products during the Big Game but also the increasing levels of integration between Super Bowl TV commercials and pre- and post-game promotion and social-media elements.[more]

But nothing seems sacrosanct in the world of GM advertising these days as Ewanick puts the biggest stamp on his organization since his arrival there as marketing chief a couple of years ago, and as results seem to continue to follow GM’s re-evaluation of all of its media properties after shifting its massive ad-buying account to a new agency.

Just as when Ewanick revealed GM’s decision to yank its paid advertising off of facebook, he used the Wall Street Journal (once again) as the message board for this decision. But while his gambit to withdraw advertising from Facebook found some agreement among other brand marketers both in the auto business and outside of it, this time Ewanick’s reversal is likely to be only a head-scratcher.

That’s because the Super Bowl has become arguably the most effective single platform for auto marketing. Besides GM, many other major auto brands have come to rely on Super Bowl ads to create awareness, fortify their brands and help launch important products — even vehicles that aren’t actually coming down the pike for months. Volkswagen, Toyota, Chrysler, Audi, Acura and Hyundai were among the other car marques that shelled out $3.5 million or more for each 30 seconds of air time during Super Bowl XLVI, which reached more than 100 million Americans.

For GM, according to the newspaper, cost was the problem. Ads for Super Bowl XLVII are selling for about $3.8 million a spot these days. GM no longer wants to be the game’s third-largest advertiser, which it has been over the last decade, according to Kantar Media — or in the game at all. But the company isn’t cutting its overall ad budget, the newspaper said.

Notably, the most important skeptic about auto advertising during the Super Bowl lately has been Ford. Ford CMO Jim Farley has held that the brand can get as big a bang for its buck via social media and other channels and that taking out spots during the Big Game itself isn’t cost-effective, comparatively.

Farley and the rest of Ford’s brain trust like to advertise on Facebook, unlike GM. But at least the worth of Super Bowl ads is something he and Ewanick can agree on.