Chevy Tahoe Kerfuffle: Does Chevy get the Last Word?

    April 7, 2006

A ton of commentary has been levelled at GM’s Chevy Tahoe team over its Apprentice-linked effort to let customers assemble their own TV commercials.

BL Ochman figured the fact that negative ads were left on the site over a weekend was a sure sign that the execs in charge weren’t paying attention. Over at AdRants, eyes are rolling over the notion that anyone could construe the campaign as positive. (After reading a New York Times piece, the folks at Adrants saw it differently.)

Perhaps the final word, though, comes from Ed Peper, Chevrolet General Manager, in his post yesterday on GM’s Fastlane blog:

Early on we made the decision that if we were to hold this contest, in which we invite anyone to create an ad, in an open forum, that we would be summarily destroyed in the blogosphere if we censored the ads based on their viewpoint. So, we adopted a position of openness and transparency, and decided that we would welcome the debate. (As an aside, we have been truly disappointed by the number of submissions we had to filter out because of their vulgar content.) I won’t bore you with the details, but the overwhelming majority of the 22,000 submissions thus far have been earnest attempts at creating positive advertisements

We at GM are not culturally unaware; we realize that there are people who would never purchase an SUV. That’s why we make more vehicles that get over 30 miles-per-gallon than any other manufacturer. That is why Chevy offers vehicles ranging from the Aveo (starting under $10,000, 34mpg) to the Tahoe ($34,000, 22mpg). In short, we make vehicles that serve the needs for customers of all walks of life and we’re proud of that.

So, a few media pundits seem to think this social media program was a failure and others seem to revel in the apparent anarchy. We, on the other hand, welcome the opportunity to clarify the facts regarding fuel economy, vehicles equipped with E85 capability, and consumer choice. In our opinion, this has been one of the most creative and successful promotions we have done. And we invite you back to see the final “Board Room” as we select the winning entry at Chevy Apprentice on April 27.

Anyway, it sure got people talking about the Tahoe. Which was the whole idea, after all.

Some may dismiss this as a trumped up story to excuse the infusion of negative ads created on the site. But if Peper is honest about his agreement to allow the negative into an open-source marketing effort, then it’s to his-and GM’s-credit. I only hope the Delphi situation doesn’t bring the walls crashing down around GM before its social networking efforts have a chance to influence the cars that roll off its assembly line in the next few years.

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Technorati: Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.