Buick ‘Retires’ Earl in Shift to Product Focus

DETROIT Buick on Sept. 19 takes its advertising in a more product-focused direction with spots set to debut during ABC’s telecast of annual the Emmy Awards.

The work from the Troy, Mich., office of Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson supports two new vehicles—the LaCrosse premium sedan and the Terraza crossover sport van—that the company hopes will breathe new life into a venerable brand that gets high marks for quality, but whose sales have been lagging in recent years.

The LaCrosse replaces the stalwart Regal and Century nameplates, which, despite support from longtime Buick buyers, had grown long in the tooth and were not attracting new buyers.

The new commercials also mark the “retirement” of the Harley Earl character used in Buick ads for the past two years. Superstar golfer and Buick spokesman Tiger Woods, who teamed with Earl in a few spots, will continue in the new efforts.

The Earl character in the spots was named after fabled auto designer Harley Earl, who created custom-made bodies for cars and trucks tailored for Hollywood stars before putting in a 20-year career at General Motors from 1927-47. As a designer, his many creations included tail fins and the first “dream car,” the Buick Y-Job. Actor John Diehl has portrayed the Earl character.

Buick ad director Randall Tallerico said the new spots and the retirement of Earl signal a shift to a product focus, as opposed to emphasizing the overall brand heritage. He otherwise declined to discuss the content of the new spots.

The two-year-old tagline, “The spirit of American style,” will be replaced by a new slogan, which Buick would not reveal.

Buick spent $120 million on ads in 2003 and $57 million through the first half of this year, per Nielson Monitor-Plus.