Chevy plots offbeat sitcom-style spots
Think 'The Office' set in a dealership
Perry: Fun at the dealership
DETROIT -- General Motors is planning a national advertising campaign that transforms the fictional staff of a Chevrolet dealership into an ensemble cast of characters patterned after TV sitcoms such as "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation."
Chevrolet intends to run several commercials that will develop the characters over time: an old-hand salesman, a hard-to-please owner, a newbie sales guy who tries too hard to impress. Chevy marketing chief Chris Perry says the use of the offbeat sitcom genre is a "breakthrough idea" meant to recast the image of Chevy dealerships as fun, disarming places where people wouldn't mind hanging out.
"It's leveraging something that's current and popular in TV right now," Perry says. "And it reinforces our brand strategy of portraying the Chevrolet dealership as a very inviting, open place."
The campaign dovetails with an ongoing makeover of Chevrolet's 3,100 dealerships, Perry says. Most are being renovated for a sleeker, brighter, more open design. GM has hired representatives from Walt Disney Co. to communicate to its dealers the entertainment company's service ethos, such as referring to customers as "guests."
GM filmed the commercials during a nine-day stretch in January at a store that was recently transformed to meet Chevrolet's facility image program. Each spot opens with a shot of the bright blue arched entryway and prominently features the store's sleek glass offices and shiny white tile. Perry wouldn't say where GM filmed the spots.
In one 30-second commercial, the sales staff sits around a flat-screen TV in the store's comfy lounge area, watching the dealership's new commercial for Chevy Truck Month. Some of the staffers rib the veteran sales guy's overzealous voiceover, which implored viewers to "come on down!" for a great truck deal.
"Rich, why are you yelling?" one colleague asks. "It seems like you're trying too hard," another says.
Rich sheepishly answers: "I took a class."
In another spot, the new sales guy tries to impress two co-workers by prank-calling his former employer -- a local Ford dealership.
"Do you guys have any crossovers that offer higher fuel economy than the Chevy Equinox?" he asks over speakerphone. The Ford store employee catches on. "Kyle, is that you?"
The sitcom style popularized by "The Office" a decade ago, sometimes called "mockumentary," is big on ironic comedy and character development.
Chevy's lead creative ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco, made the spots. Many of Chevrolet's local marketing associations will start running the commercials March 1. GM later will use the spots nationally, a Chevrolet spokesman says.
GM is hoping for strong adoption by the local groups, which pool money to run advertising tailored to their markets. In Las Vegas this month, Chevy execs showed several spots to more than 100 association presidents in hopes of getting their buy-in.
"We want better alignment so that we're getting a consistent message and theme and look of the advertising in the marketplace," Perry says.
Steve Hurley, dealer principal at Stingray Chevrolet in Plant City, Fla., and co-chairman of the Chevrolet National Dealer Council, says dealers are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
"Some dealers might say, 'I'm not so sure about this' because it is so different," Hurley says. "But I think a lot of them will see it as refreshing. I think it could be a surprise hit."
You can reach Mike Colias at email@example.com.