GM’s Fraleigh Unmoved

Six months into a top marketing position at General Motors, Christopher J. Fraleigh said he’s less than thrilled with the automaker’s ad efforts.

“Overall, there is not a relentless pursuit of the absolute best work, both here and at our agencies,” said Fraleigh, who in January was named executive director of corporate marketing and advertising at GM. “Average isn’t good, average is bad.”

Fraleigh cautioned he has no plans to change GM’s agency lineup—which includes Campbell-Ewald, McCann-Erickson, D’Arcy and Lowe, Lintas & Partners—but said the automaker’s shops “could be more tireless in their pursuit of excellence.”

Fraleigh reports to John G. Middlebrook, GM’s vice president and general manager, vehicle brand marketing and corporate advertising. Fraleigh assumed some of the responsibilities formerly held by Phil Guarascio, who retired last May.

Fraleigh’s challenge is to help the automaker regain lost market share and implement GM’s goal of integrating national merchandising and promotional efforts with local ad efforts.

One problem he said he has encountered is the layers of bureaucracy ads must go through for approval. “You want more than one person involved and at some point you want to get consumer feedback, but having a lot of people and a lot of iterations, you kind of lose the [fragility] of what’s usually a great idea in advertising,” he said.

He also said GM and its agencies need to do a better job on what he calls the “softer” side of research. “We’ve got a very robust process for measuring the effectiveness of advertising, from a quantitative standpoint. But pulling out some of the softer sides of things, the qualitative aspects, is a little more of an art.”

GM’s ad spending in 2000 was $2.8 billion, per Competitive Media Reporting.

Fraleigh said his goals for his first 18 months will be to improve GM’s ad product, find ways to get greater impact out of its media outlay, and find more “big ideas” to impact areas such as GM’s Olympic sponsorship.