GM Ignores Dealer Protests Over Ad Plan

General Motors on Jan. 1 will start implementation of a plan to reorganize its advertising, marketing, sales and service structure, despite pleas from its dealers to change course.
A group of GM dealers had placed a full-page ad in two Detroit dailies last week urging the company to reconsider. The automaker’s plan divides the country into five regions, each of which will oversee local marketing for all of GM’s lines. That replaces the current structure with dozens of small dealer co-ops for each GM division. The new structure would shift control of an estimated $1 billion in ad spending from local dealers and their agencies to GM Mediaworks and the car maker’s national creative shops [Adweek, Sept. 28].
GM’s new approach may also include consolidating creative responsibility for promotional “sales event” ads for all of its car lines at Campbell-Ewald Advertising, according to one source. The Warren, Mich., shop is the national Chevrolet agency. GM representative Donna Fontana declined comment on the matter.
Last week’s Detroit ad–an open letter addressed to GM chief executive officer John F. Smith Jr.–was 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 dealers are worried that centralized marketing will ignore local needs and opportunities, and they will lose control of the perks that come from handling their own ad budgets. The same group, via its attorney, Dennis M. O’Keefe, sent GM a letter Nov. 19 threatening litigation if the company carried out its plans. Skinner and O’Keefe were not available for comment.
Fontana said the coalition’s ad will have no effect on any planned changes. GM has had “significant input from dealers” throughout the reorganization and has incorporated those ideas into the plan, she said.
Dealers are proceeding “a day at a time and continuing to spend, but with the idea that it’s probably over,” a source said. –with Scott Hum

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