Granny exclaims to her grandson about the hot red Buick Regal in her driveway: “Sure doesn't look like a Buick!”
MIKE COLIAS

New twist: Using old folks to help Buick's image

Mike Colias covers General Motors for Automotive News.
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DETROIT -- Buick will introduce a commercial this week that will try to convince consumers once again that its vehicles aren’t made for the blue-haired set.

But this time it will enlist the help of, well, a few blue hairs.

Buick is tapping one of its biggest advertising platforms of the year, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, to air the spot, which features all five vehicles in its lineup. It will begin running Thursday, when Sweet 16 games begin.

The 30-second commercial, by Leo Burnett, marks perhaps Buick’s most explicit message yet to convince U.S. consumers that its cars aren’t what people have come to expect from their parents or grandparents.

A valet runs through a parking lot looking for a Buick without noticing a sleek silver LaCrosse right under his nose. A young woman stands on the street craning her neck for the Buick that’s supposed to pick her up, but she doesn’t see the shiny Encore parked right in front of her.

And in a bit of self-deprecating irony that takes on Buick’s old-person problem head-on, a granny exclaims to her grandson about the hot red Buick Regal in her driveway: “Sure doesn’t look like a Buick!”

Her elderly neighbor yells from across the street: “That’s not a Buick!”

The commercial ends with the tag line: “Five expectation-shattering models.”

“We’re attacking that false familiarity directly, because we’ve got this new portfolio now,” Buick marketing chief Tony DiSalle told Automotive News today.

The Encore small crossover was launched last year as a new nameplate. The LaCrosse sedan was refreshed and the Regal re-engineered for the 2014 model year. The Enclave was refreshed for the 2013 model year.

DiSalle acknowledges that the false familiarity — he also used the term “perception gap” (a marketing guy would never say “image problem”) — won’t die easily.

“We know,” he says, “that consumers’ perception takes a long time to change.”

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

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