GM User Created Ad Contest Backfires

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Giving the public the opportunity to create Chevy Tahoe video advertisements led to the creation of numerous anti-SUV commercials instead.

At the Chevy Apprentice website, people can enter a contest through an innovative method of building a commercial for the Chevy Tahoe by dragging and dropping image clips, and adding superimposed text to the images. Then a music track backing the commercial can be added.

What could possibly go wrong?

How about a slew of global warming complaints and vicious anti-SUV spots quickly becoming viral videos and zipping around the Internet instead?

Those viral spots quickly gave General Motors a PR headache as numerous criticisms of the company, the Bush Administration, and SUV owners became the focus of hundreds of people all building user-generated content.

CNet collected some of the better creations that have probably already vanished from the website, though to GM’s credit it is not pulling every ad that has a negative tone. One of the funnier creations imposed this text over scenes of a Chevy Tahoe on the roll:

Larger than any mortal needs
with four wheel drive for conditions you’ll
probably never encounter…
and sized to intimidate other drivers
& damage others’ cars more than yours
gives you false confidence so you can
continue to drive like a heedless jerk
…because you’re the only one
on the whole damn planet.

A host of other spots, many much more critical and less publishable, have been collected by the Democratic Underground website. Quite a few commercials have already been removed by GM.

The negative approach to the contest can provide GM and other big companies with a valuable lesson on how to improve their SUV marketing. Tara Hunt blogged about that in a recent post:

Okay…so a little hyperbole there, but seriously…instead of chocking this up to a bad marketing decision, they could really use the information here. There are a growing number of people who believe that the proliferation of SUVs is getting ridiculous. Does everyone need a vehicle that can climb snowy mountains?

But what SUVs solve for many is a ‘cooler’ alternative to minivans for their growing families.

B.L. Ochman responded to the kerfuffle by pointing out what should have been painfully obvious to GM anyway:

Dear Chevy: Gas mileage, the environment, and big cars are not exactly a new issue. Hell, I got 32 miles per gallon on a 1967 Toyota Corolla! What did you think the public would do, given the chance?

Apparently GM’s Detroit leadership doesn’t use the Internet much on weekends. CNet reported on how the April Fool’s weekend served as the launching ground for hundreds of these ads. The automaker didn’t respond until after the weekend to start culling the more egregious spots from the contest.

A GM spokesperson said in the report that more than 80 percent of the commercials depict the Tahoe in a favorable light.

“There are many different opinions and many different people, and we recognize that,” said Melisa Tezanos, a GM spokeswoman.

By that percentage, about 4,000 of the 21,000+ ads submitted contained a negative tone. Interested readers can visit the contest site and create ad entries to the contest through April 10th. It’s unlikely that any ad reading “2007 Chevy Tahoe…Maybe he’s just…’compensating’…for something” will make it to the airwaves, though.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

GM User Created Ad Contest Backfires
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