Five reasons why GM's Super Bowl pass is baffling

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DETROIT -- Since General Motors' decision last week not to suit up for the Super Bowl next year, I've chatted with folks inside and outside GM. I've read what others think. I've mulled.

And I still don't get GM's decision not to advertise during the Big Game. Here are five reasons why:

1. I'm skeptical of GM's official reason that ad rates have gotten too pricey.

Let's do the math.

CBS reportedly is seeking a 25 percent price jump for a 30-second spot, to north of $4 million. Assuming that higher rate -- and, believe me, GM ain't paying sticker price -- means GM might shell out around $5 million more than it spent on the last Super Bowl if it re-upped for five 30-second spots for the 2013 Super Bowl.

That represents 0.001 percent of GM's global advertising spending from 2011. Pocket change. Why abandon what had been your highest-profile advertising platform simply to draw a line in the sand on ad rates?

2. By Super Bowl Sunday, GM should be just weeks away from the launch of its redesigned pickup trucks, which will kick off one of GM's busiest launch schedules in years. During this year's game, Chevy ran 90 seconds worth of ads -- presumably around $10 million -- for its Sonic subcompact. Isn't a new Silverado seven years in the making worth a little Big Game air time?

3. GM marketing chief Joel Ewanick loves big-event marketing. He launched the Chevy Cruze and the "Chevy Runs Deep" campaign during the 2010 World Series. The upcoming Cadillac ATS campaign will kick off during the Olympics. Heading for the sidelines on the biggest event of the year just seems counter to his go-big impulse.

4. Super Bowl advertising gets more buzz than ever. Over the past few years, automakers have taken to YouTube days and weeks before the game to stoke media coverage. (Ewanick has been one of the chief stokers.) The post-game analysis of the commercials is more extensive than ever. What was once a weekend of buzz now stretches weeks.

5. The decision to forgo the Super Bowl will fester. GM will have to endure weeks of coverage of rivals' plans while it's relegated to a one-paragraph mention about how the automaker isn't suiting up for the Big Game.

Ewanick and lots of other smart people are paid good money to make these decisions. I'm sure there are good reasons to sit out the Super Bowl.

I just can't think of one, other than sending a message to CBS.

You can reach Mike Colias at mcolias@crain.com.

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