GM Dealers Braced For Changes




Coalition’s Ad Blasts Impending Reorganization of Local Marketing
DETROIT–A group of General Motors dealers placed a full-page ad in two Detroit dailies last week, pleading with the automaker to reconsider plans to drastically alter its marketing and advertising structure.
Unswayed, GM this week is expected to confirm that the plan first announced in September to reorganize its sales, service and marketing structure will be implemented Jan. 1. The plan divides the country into five regions, each of which will oversee local marketing for all GM lines, replacing the current structure which includes dozens of small dealer co-ops for each line.
The new centralization of the estimated $1 billion that dealers spend locally with GM’s national agencies and GM Mediaworks media buying unit leaves no role for co-op ad agencies [Adweek, Sept. 28].
Last week’s ad–an open letter addressed to GM chief executive officer John F. Smith Jr.–asks GM to reconsider plans to “terminate its dealer ad associations in markets across the United States.” It is signed by the General Motors Dealers Coalition, a group comprised mainly of Chicago-area dealers represented by Samuel Skinner, the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
The same group, via its other attorney, Dennis M. O’Keefe, sent GM a letter Nov. 19 threatening litigation if GM carried out its plans. Neither Skinner nor O’Keefe was available for comment.
GM representative Donna Fontana confirmed the automaker intends to unveil its new structure this week. She said the coalition’s ad will have no effect on any planned changes and that GM has received “significant input from dealers” throughout the process of reorganizing its marketing structure and has incorporated those ideas into the plan.
According to one dealer agency source, GM’s new approach may include consolidating creative responsibility for all promotional “sales event” ads for all GM car lines at Campbell-Ewald Advertising.
The Warren, Mich., shop is the national agency for GM’s Chevrolet division, with duties including sales event advertising. GM’s Fontana declined comment.
Dealers, worried they are about to lose control of their local marketing, are proceeding “a day at a time and continuing to spend, but with the idea that it’s probably over,” a dealer source said. –with Scott Hume