For Grand Prix, It Takes a Thief

LOS ANGELES The first spot touting General Motors’ Onstar vehicle-tracking feature for the company’s Pontiac Grand Prix bowed during Fox’s Sunday night Emmy Awards telecast and on ABC’s Monday Night Football.

The 30-second ad at first appears to be a typical car commercial: A rugged guy cruises around Los Angeles in a Pontiac GTP/Competition Group model. But he slams on the brakes at a road block manned by a glowering highway patrolman, where it is revealed that the apparently proud owner is a car thief, now caught in a dragnet, thanks to OnStar. The voiceover continues the brand’s overarching “Fuel for the soul” theme.

David Johns (art) and George Katsarelas (copy) were co-creative directors for the Publicis Groupe agency chemistri, Troy, Mich., where they brainstormed the concept of combining two products in one spot. “The thief is clearly enjoying his ride,” said Johns. “He’s ‘fueled’ until the point that his fueling moment is over, and back home we imagine there is an owner ‘fueled’ by getting his ride back.”

Dana Christiaansen directed the spot for Plum Productions, Santa Monica, Calif., casting an actual county sheriff as the patrolman.

The Onstar emphasis derives from GM research showing a gap between awareness of the vehicle-tracking feature and its valuation, said Dino Bernacchi, national advertising manager for Pontiac in Troy, Mich. “It’s a dramatic way to show you an incredible feature,” he said. “We’ve found that people only find out about vehicle tracking once they become an owner.”

GM has spent nearly $50 million to advertise the Grand Prix during the first half of 2003, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.