Graphic Interface

Last Monday, German computer graphics software company RTT, the winner of an international bid to seed General Motors’ global asset bank with digital data, made its first deposit. The complex wireframes and other precise drawings of GM vehicles will later bloom into everything from Web-based car configurators for virtual tours to full-blown commercials. The goal at GM is to get every one of its agencies worldwide to borrow cars from its new “virtual garage.”

The global asset bank, housed at GM design centers around the world, allows GM agencies anywhere to access and modify common digital assets, such as features that various cars share, says Jim Jandasek, director of Chevrolet global marketing, Detroit. The goal is a bank big enough to provide 75 to 85 percent of all static imagery (for catalogs, training and other collateral), and include running footage created with CGI, or with a camera, or with a combination of the two.

“CGI matte art now supports almost everything we do,” Jandasek says. “Once we harvest [CGI] data, we only want to do it once, and not just for Chevrolet, but to share the asset geographically and across portfolios, too.”

GM’s investment in the virtual garage is indicative of the growing need to manage its digital assets and streamline its production costs. For Chevrolet, the global shops include BrandCom, the joint venture between Campbell-Ewald and McCann Worldgroup, as well as Leo Burnett, StrawberryFrog and Ignition, which handle Chevrolet projects in Europe. “The use of CGI in our advertising across the board is already in place,” says Jandasek, “but now it has become comprehensive and it is the standardized fashion of working on a wide variety of advertising efforts.”

CGI is used for 65 to 70 percent of Chevrolet’s catalog work, Jandasek says, up from about 25 percent just a few years ago. The effort is one way GM can keep creative standards high as commercial production budgets diminish. “Structural cost reduction is paramount to GM’s turnaround plan,” Jandasek says.

Creative collaboration is key to the cross-shop CGI exchange. “The ultimate end point has got to be an improvement of quality of ideas and creative,” Jandasek says. “The ideation of creative campaigns will be shared across all the agencies. We think CGI can be a big enabler of expanding our ability to execute a big idea.”

There are already examples of how the effort will impact creative by GM agencies worldwide, Jandasek says. All roster shops will be encouraged to use the common assets. Already, for the Chevy Captiva and the Aveo, digital assets developed into full-blown commercials have been shared in vastly disparate markets among Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett and Interpublic Group’s Campbell Ewald and McCann Erickson.

GM roster shops have been responsive to the call. “CGI is an arrow in our quiver, and as we move forward we are engaging it more and more,” says Kenneth Doherty, assets account director at Leo Burnett, Troy, Mich., which handles Pontiac, GMC and Buick in several countries.

With increased demand comes increased capability requirements. CGI projects require art directors to take on greater roles than average commercials, Doherty notes. “Rather than ‘reading’ an image provided by a photographer, the art director must become the author, directing the workstation operator, who has become car prep, grip, first assistant and, at times, food service,” he says.

To better handle the client need for CGI, Leo Burnett is considering ramping up its in-house 3-D resources, Doherty says. “We have to look at taking the technology in-house, without a doubt. There are extremely useful benefits in terms of timing, creative oversight, brand integrity, confidentiality and, yes, incremental revenue,” he says.