Joel Ewanick struck a deal with Manchester United, then was fired as General Motors' marketing boss.
Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
Ewanick's red card
Joel Ewanick generated plenty of headlines before his two-year run as General Motors' global marketing boss ended last summer. In May, he pulled GM's $10 million ad account with Facebook after questioning the effectiveness of paid ads on the social networking site. Also in May, he said GM would skip the 2013 Super Bowl because commercials in the big game were getting too expensive.
Then Ewanick, seeking to boost Chevrolet's global exposure, spent an estimated $600 million on a sponsorship deal with English soccer club Manchester United, which sells more jerseys worldwide than all NFL football teams combined. But, sources say, financial details of the deal were handled improperly, leading GM CEO Dan Akerson to fire Ewanick in July.
Tesla's low-voltage launch
Most automakers spend tens of millions of dollars on new-vehicle marketing launches. But Tesla Motors isn't most automakers. Tesla didn't spend a dime to advertise the Model S sedan. Heck, the car doesn't even have an advertising budget.
Instead, Tesla relied on social media buzz, ritzy events for potential owners and publicity in auto enthusiast magazines to spread the word on its first true production car. The contrarian ad strategy matched its factory-store retail strategy, which eschews traditional franchised dealers.
So far, the strategy seems to be working. Tesla was building 200 units per week in mid-December and expects to sell 20,000 in 2013.
In December, Ford Motor Co. unveiled plans to revive Lincoln. The brand was renamed Lincoln Motor Co., its moniker when Ford bought the marque in 1922. Execs vowed the relaunch campaign, backed by four revamped models to be released over the next four years, would be Lincoln's biggest ever. Commercials will feature the late crooner and former Lincoln owner Dean Martin as well as an actor portraying President Lincoln. The brand also plans a Super Bowl commercial sourced from ideas taken from Twitter, as curated by late-night talk-show host Jimmy Fallon.
Ito: More sales in North America
American Honda stunned the advertising world in December by placing its $700 million U.S. creative and media accounts with RPA up for review after 26 years of business together. When American Honda marketing boss Mike Accavitti joined the company in 2011, he called such a review "completely unproductive and unnecessary." But now Honda Motor Co. CEO Takanobu Ito aims to increase North American sales to 2 million vehicles in four years from an expected 1.7 million this year, and Accavitti says it's time to write a new chapter for the Acura and Honda brands. RPA will participate in the review, expected to be completed in the first quarter.
Dealers were outraged last summer when Google unexpectedly erased scores of dealership reviews written by local customers from its Web pages. To make matters worse, Google had no formal appeal process in place to hear dealer grievances, meaning many dealers who diligently built their online reputations through user-generated reviews could do little when those reviews went poof.
Chrysler learned the hard way that Jennifer Lopez can't sell Fiat 500s. Or at least not many of them.
For its second try, Chrysler armed itself with a new Fiat brand chief in Tim Kuniskis, more incentives, a bigger advertising budget and some sultry TV spots. The result? Fiat 500 sales more than doubled through November.
Jaguar on 'Mad Men'
Jaguar got some publicity by appearing in a major plotline in AMC's hit 1960s advertising TV show "Mad Men."
Over multiple episodes, Don Draper and colleagues at the show's Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency vied to land the Jaguar account. But AMC's use of the iconic British brand wasn't always complimentary. One unsavory plot twist revolved around how the agency could only win the big auto account if Joan Holloway, the agency's buxom office manager, spent a night with the head of Jaguar's dealer council.
It's all fiction, of course, and the folks at the real-life Jaguar took it in stride.
You know what they say: There's no such thing as bad publicity.
Chrysler's halftime speech
For the second straight year, Chrysler stole the show in the Super Bowl with another gritty, Detroit-themed commercial that was more short film than product pitch. The "Halftime in America" spot hit on themes of patriotism and American resilience, with a weathered Clint Eastwood and his gravelly voice providing the voiceover, punctuated by the spot's key line: "This country can't be knocked down with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do, the world's going to hear the roar of our engines."
Painter: Yahoo deal went sour.
TrueCar and Yahoo's broken engagement
It sounded like a perfect match. Burgeoning auto shopping site TrueCar and Yahoo, one of the Web's biggest search engines, were to team up and create a huge funnel of leads for dealers.
TrueCar was so high on the deal that CEO Scott Painter agreed to pay Yahoo $50 million per year for three years in exchange for Yahoo's promise to deliver 10 million unique visitors per month to TrueCar's Web pages.
But TrueCar's business model ran afoul of state franchise laws, thousands of dealers quit the service and the Yahoo deal eventually unraveled. The deal, officially launched last January, was scrapped by July.
Subaru swipes CR-V shoppers
Dean Evans, Subaru's U.S. marketing boss, proved he has a few digital tricks up his sleeve. Facing an inventory glut of aging Forester crossovers, Evans bought Google search ads that appeared when Web surfers went looking for the Honda CR-V, a direct Forester competitor. When he had sold down the surplus sufficiently, he halted the ads. The strategy helped Subaru clear out summer inventories without costly incentives that erode profits and hurt residuals.