Buick LaCrosse Advertising Campaign Comes Under Fire from Within

Buick LaCrosse Advertising Campaign Comes Under Fire from Within

New General Motors’ vice chairman in charge of marketing and advertising, Bob Lutz, has sent shock waves through the automaker’s Buick division. Lutz, a mere two weeks into his new role, has been highly critical of Buick’s new television commercial and is demanding changes.

In response, Buick executives and representatives from Leo Burnett (Buick’s advertising agency of record) have met to discuss the criticism. The situation is somewhat complicated by the fact that the TV. commercial in question was produced by another agency.

In Lutz’s previous role as head of product development, he was instrumental in designing a line of cars intended to compete head to head with Toyota’s luxury Lexus line. He now wants the marketing and advertising to match that level of sophistication and compel new luxury car buyers to consider the Buick brand.

The timing of the Buick advertising campaign coincides with GM’s emergence from bankruptcy and the automaker prepares for the launch of the newly redesigned 2010 Buick LaCrosse.

The perception is that Buick, and GM a whole, needs to distance itself from the negative press and negative image that the bankruptcy generated. Marketing and advertising is crucial to the success of those efforts. In short, the new LaCrosse may not be “your father’s Buick” but that won’t matter to GM’s bottom line if the messaging isn’t compelling.

Among the criticisms of the current Buick TV commercial, one of six in a campaign entitled Photo Shoot, were the assertions that the commercial does not target typical Buick buyers, that it does not convey enough information about Buick’s products and identity and that the approach (a commercial about producing a commercial) is cliché and lacks creativity.

Lutz’s criticism comes just a week after GM’s CEO, Fritz Henderson, voiced his disappointment over the Photo Shoot campaign. Along with the commercial for the Buick LaCrosse, Henderson was also critical of the Buick Enclave commercial, claiming that the campaign fails to establish Buick as a premium brand. Henderson warned that Buick will have to do better.

Another criticism leveled at the campaign is the assertion that too much air time is given to the actors. Both commercials focus as much on the young, trendy commercial director as they do on the vehicles themselves.

Susan Docherty, vice president of Buick-GM, calls Lutz’s criticism of the LaCrosse commercial unfair. She points out that the individual commercial represent a portion of a larger campaign. "I’m very appreciative of Bob’s input,” she said, “and it’s great to have a second set of eyes on it.” However, she says, "I’m looking forward to working with Bob and sharing spots two through six with him. We’ll take him through the rest of the work."

According to studies conducted by J.D. Power and Associates, Buick’s aspiration to compete with Lexus for market share is going to be an uphill battle. According to studies conducted by the organization, in 2008, only 1% of Lexus buyers even considered Buick. Furthermore the figure has remained between 1% and 2% for five years. Buick buyers also tend to be older than Lexus buyers. Although the average age of Buick buyers has dropped from 64 in 2007, to 63 in 2008, to the current age of 62, this is still considerably older than the average age of Lexus buyers which is estimated at 41.

Docherty is well aware of the importance of getting Buick’s advertising and marketing right at this crucial time in the company’s history.

In an effort to target a younger demographic, Buick’s new campaign focuses heavily on digital (online) advertising, event marketing and print. Print ads focus highly on interior quality and features and the direct-injection V-6 according to Docherty. “We’re very specific in our print ads in terms of who we’re going after,” she says.

She also claims that Bob Lutz has not berated her personally for the current campaign. She also says that she feels the campaign is sending the right signal; that Buick has been transformed and is worth a second look from consumers.

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