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GM Hits Runway to Get Women on the Roadway

Automaker teams with Isaac Mizrahi, LivingSocial, Time Warner to promote the latest Chevy Malibu

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To get women in the driver’s seat in the 1950s, General Motors hired the “Damsels of Design,” an all-female team of auto designers who created female-friendly models like the Chevy Impala Martinique and the Pontiac Parisienne. This week the automaker kicks off a more modern approach to generate interest in its 2013 Chevy Malibu, by way of a side trip through women’s closets.

GM has forged a unique multiplatform alliance with fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, the daily deals brand LivingSocial and media giant Time Warner.

“It’s an opportunity for us to put a stake in the ground and commit to the growing women’s segment,” said Mary Kubitskey, an advertising manager at Chevrolet.

For the partnership, Mizrahi conceived a clothing line, Malibu Style, that was inspired by the new Malibu model and that will be sold exclusively on LivingSocial.

Mizrahi told Adweek that the new Malibu has elegant features and unusual colors that inspired his own designs.

“My career has been thrust in the direction of demystifying style for women,” he said. “One of the things I was inspired by was a blue light that emanates from the dashboard. It’s just sexy.”

His clothing line, targeted to women aged 25 to 45, will also be promoted by way of 50 videos, created by Time Inc. studios, to be streamed across Time Warner-owned websites, as well as Facebook, over the next three months.

In the videos, Mizrahi will be seen tooling around Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and New York in a Chevy Malibu, meeting up with fashion-savvy “muses” and dishing out advice on dressing and accessorizing. And, of course, he’ll also be chatting plenty about the Malibu.

For LivingSocial to hawk clothing, and especially cars, might seem peculiar given that the deal site’s offerings skew toward leg waxing and yoga lessons. Details of the deal lie in the demographics. Sixty-four percent of LivingSocial’s 60 million subscribers are women, while 36 percent earn more than $100,000 per year.

“These are women with disposable income,” said Mitch Spolan, vp, national sales at LivingSocial. “Malibu Style is a perfect match for [LivingSocial’s new e-commerce arm] Shop.”

Brokered by agency Carat, the Malibu Style clothing line will, like the new Malibu model, be promoted through assorted Time Warner media channels.

In the coming weeks, Mizrahi will plug the Malibu during three appearances on the syndicated celebrity-news show Extra. Video and display ads will appear on the sites of Time Inc.’s People, StyleWatch, InStyle and Real Simple, while monthly promotions will run in print editions of the magazines this fall.

A call-to-action in one ad will promote ChevyMalibuStyle.com, which directs users to a dedicated Facebook page.

“We really focus on [leveraging] fashion as a thread of conversation around the Chevy Malibu,” said Kristen O’Hara, CMO of Time Warner Global Media Group.

Facebook’s role is understandable seeing as an estimated 64 percent of its users are female. But in keeping with former GM CEO Joel Ewanick’s well-publicized pledge to forego Facebook, no direct paid ads are scheduled for the Chevy Malibu.

Still, Kubitskey left some wiggle room for changing course. “I cannot say that it’s not possible,” she said of running Facebook ads. “But as of now, there’s nothing planned. It’s an evolving situation.”