Friday, November 11, 2011

The Manchurian Candidate

I received a phone call yesterday morning and the caller was very frustrated. No, it was not my wife, it was one of my business partners exclaiming that she could not believe what she just read. Here is the headline to what she was referring, GM's in a Korean State of Mind But can it give Cheil the win on Chevy's creative? Basically if you read the piece it states that Cheil, a Korean advertising agency, is one of the finalists for the American icon's creative agency account. The article, penned by Noreen O'Leary, seems to me to be a pretty objective and fact-based piece. Noreen continues on explaining why it might and might not make sense for Chevrolet to select Cheil Worldwide for this desirable task. By the way I went to Cheil's web site (linked to in this piece) and it was not a pleasant experience.

 Needless to say, my partner's amazement that Chevrolet would consider, even just as a finalist, any non-stateside shop as the creative lead for the brand disappointed her, to put it mildly. And why wouldn't it? Let's look at the Chevrolet campaign that is eating up our airwaves as I write this.

"Runs Deep" has been plastered all over television, billboards, the web and in print for a decent part of 2011 and as possibly best evidenced in this spot , is really tugging on our collective Americana heart strings. This campaign is effectively saying, "Hey, we have grown up with this country, with your family, with YOU. We are still here making great American products that will evoke the same emotions, in you, that this guy is experiencing as he cries about his old Impala SS." They are really pouring it on, and I will admit, when I first saw this spot air, I thought it was well done. Understanding the current Chevrolet brand statement and upon reading this AdWeek article, Lee Clow has got to be shitting himself right about now. 

Accomplished brand agencies who understand the value of true brand advertising and marketing will read this article and NOT react to the obvious hypocrisy of a US tax payer funded bailout recipient opting for a foreign service provider when there are plenty of good, qualified AND unemployed advertising folks roaming the streets looking for a place to practice their craft. They will, however, react to how Chevy, even by simply naming a non-US agency as a finalist, is contradicting the very foundation of the biggest campaign it has run in the last several years. What does this say to their current US employees, their non-marketing executives and most importantly, like my business partner, their US customers? Her reaction to me was one of betrayal. She expressed to me, "How could they even consider a non-US agency after the events of the last couple of years!?" I am a free market guy and I get Noreen's consideration of a Korean agency for a growing Korean market. Makes total sense. To have a non-US agency, lead the entire Chevy brand, a brand staking its comeback on a heavy emotional connection with its Americana roots and American customer base, to me, makes no sense. It is a total contradiction to itself. Lee Clow iterated in the documentary Art & Copy, and I am paraphrasing, but he essentially said the best way to sell a brand, and see the brand succeed, is by expressing the one simple truth about that brand, to the consuming public, in a way they understand. The next step is to ensure the brand lives up to and delivers on that truth.

 So Chevy, is this consideration of Cheil how you are "Running Deep?"

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