Yesterday morning, a group of journalists (and one of us bloggers) were treated to some good ol' American shock n' awe as we had an opportunity to take in the musk of Chevy's new marketing blitz for the 2007 Silverado pickup. The truck's already been called "the most important product release in General Motors history" by the General's spinmeisters, and Chevy PR chief Terry Rhadigan was bringing in the big guns from the General's ad agency, Campbell-Ewald to show their stuff — and on top of all this was the unconfirmed involvement of John "Silverado" Mellencamp we reported on last week. So we were ready to see if the marketing campaign would live up to expectations. Well, let's just say it'll certainly be explosive...
...in some ways good, and in other ways...umm...not so good.
The campaign's called "Our Country, Our Truck" and it's designed around images of rural America intending to appeal to what Chevy's targeting as the key demographic for truck product, white, married males — with specific attention paid to the ever-truck-lovin' Lone Star State. In the ads, which will begin airing during NBC's new "Sunday Night Football," Chevy's got a new John Mellencamp song as the soundtrack behind images of dads holding babies, old Chevy trucks, baseball and farms. Oh, and nuclear explosions. That's right, in one of the spec ads journalists previewed, there's the scene of a mushroom cloud — what we're assuming was a test of some sort — then an image of duck n' coverin' kids doing just that under their desks.
The commercial in which the image appears is called "Anthem" and it's meant to, as Chevy claims, showcase the good and bad of the past half century and show how America's made it through the difficult times. The imagery corresponds with that message, including shots of Vietnam, the twin towers of light emitting from the World Trade towers site in the months after 9/11 and (of course), hippies in the 60's. Then there's the mushroom cloud. A subconscious reference to a certain rival from the land of the rising sun, which just happens to be launching its own new pickup at the beginning of next year, perhaps? Chevy spokespeople say that's just not the case (and yes, we believe them. A couple of PR reps didn't quite believe us when we questioned what we'd seen. It wasn't until they asked the marketing folks, who then explained yes, the scene had been added), we're not entirely convinced. We mean, come on, there's only one country that's been on the receiving end of nuclear weapons, and from what we hear it's kinda still a touchy subject in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. So when your biggest and newest competitor on the scene hails from said country — maybe toning down the incendiary imagery's probably a good idea.
Then there's the 9/11 imagery, which could mark the first attempt to evoke 9/11 to sell goods. Yes the event's part of recent American past — but does the General really want to be the first to head down that trail? We're wondering.
Outside to those two scenes, "Our Country, Our Truck" is typically red, white and brash — but of course, we're not really the intended demographic...we don't even like John Mellencamp (well, at least one of us isn't a huge fan of him). But we're certain it, and the jingoistic (regardless of comments made by GM PR to the contrary) tenor of the ads will appeal to the vast majority of the truck-buying population. And for the most parts, the ads gave us a good feeling about the truck — mushroom cloud and 9/11 reference notwithstanding. But, like we've always said — ads don't sell cars (or trucks), the vehicles do. And we won't know how hot or not them thar' new trucks are until we test drive 'em later this fall.
We'll have some more of the creative up in the AM — along with more details of the campaign. We've also requested copy of the creative from Chevy, but so far have received no ETA on when we'll get it.
UPDATE: We've got the ads — and Chevy's cut not only the nuclear images — but also the 9/11 images (which have been confirmed by the NYT piece this AM).
GM Hates Bob Seger: Chevy To Sell New Trucks By Getting A Bit Mellencampy [internal]