Pontiac Debuts Soulful Campaign

General Motors backs an ambitious fourth-quarter ad plan for Pontiac with a campaign intended to convey the ex cite ment of driving. It’s tagged, “Fuel for the soul.”

The tagline re places “Pass it on,” which was created largely for the launch of the Pontiac Vibe last fall, said Mark-Hans Richer, director of advertising and sales promotion at Pontiac. The old tag was deemed “not broad enough to carry the entire brand and all of the new product,” he said.

D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Troy, Mich., handles advertising for Pontiac. Spending in the fourth quarter is expected to be double last year’s figures, executives said. CMR recorded $60 million for Pon tiac in the fourth quarter of 2001 and $220 million for the full year.

“Pass it on” had been coupled with the long-standing themeline “Pontiac excitement,” which is not used in the new campaign. “We think it’s more im portant for people to feel it rather than hear the words,” Richer said. “But excitement is still the core of the brand.”

“Pass it on” em ployed a reality-TV concept that used real people who were given the keys to drive a Pontiac for a week. The new campaign focuses on the performance benefits of the vehicles through fast-paced footage of cars in action.

“It’s not so much a shift as a re awakening of the essence of Pontiac. We’re doing it in a way that’s simplified and basic,” Richer said. “We’re trying to build a platform that will last a long time, and we think this is it.”

The new work “goes back to the basics” about what Pontiac stands for, said Gary Topolewski, D’Arcy executive creative director. “Considering where the division is going and all the new products that are coming out, we think ‘Fuel for the soul’ is an attitude that will live on.”

The campaign includes a 60-second brand spot that will run in theaters in October. Three 15-second spots each focus on a different model: Grand Am, Sunfire and Vibe. Ads for a remodeled Grand Prix will be released in the spring, along with additional work for a new version of the Bonneville. A new effort for a revamped Pontiac GTO is planned for autumn 2003.

The spots use quick close-ups of the car in action. Gears shift, gauge needles dance and engine components pump. There is no voiceover, but at the end, red type on a white background reads: “Engage your senses. Accelerate your heart. Fuel for the soul.”