For several years, TV viewers have been besieged with advertising for trucks.
How many commercials of pickups and SUVs climbing over huge piles of rocks or up 90-degree hills can one take, especially when most drivers don't do this anyway?
Far too many.
In a departure from the usual verbal and visual cliches associated with truck advertising, GMC and its agency, Lowe Lintas & Partners, have attained a pinnacle with a provocative, clutter-cutting multimedia campaign.
Each of the campaign's five TV commercials focuses on the attributes of a specific model by using everyday driving examples or demonstrations of particular features. Spare yet effective copy augments the visuals.
Two commercials that focus on real-life situations include parking one of those big-mother SUVs in a tight garage space and a sudden stop with a heavy load in the back of a fast-moving truck.
Two other commercials use flight-of-fancy demonstrations. One shows a high-powered truck running against cars on a racing oval; the other takes place on a track used to train folks in driving precision.
The fifth, and probably least effective, spot depicts a woman driving a heavy-duty truck with a massive horse trailer through the mountains.
GMC emphasizes its 'Professional Grade' brand positioning by including engineers, not actors, in each of the spots. Putting engineers in commercials - they're better actors than most CEOs - is not a new idea. Almost everyone has done it, but not with the understated panache achieved in these spots.
LL&P did not resort to digital special effects or overproduced graphics. Instead, fine camera work melds with understandable graphics to polish these commercials to a high sheen.
It didn't bombard the viewer with too much voiceover copy.
A spot for the Sierra C3, a high-powered truck, is the most effective of the lot. The commercial opens with scenes of a race track oval, much like a NASCAR super speedway, with cuts of vehicles zooming in and out of the frame as the voiceover says: 'The only vehicle of its kind with full-time four-wheel drive and a 325-horsepower engine. Is it possible the ultimate performance and control machine isn't German, isn't Italian and isn't a car? Introducing the new GMC Sierra C3.'
This grabbed my attention the first time I saw it on the tube, and I'm not a truck person. But there's more. That's the last spoken copy in this commercial. Not another peep or whisper.
Sure, there's good music, but most of the spot - 20-plus seconds - is shots of the truck, engineering graphics and a three-part theme line. The copy reads:
Frame 1. 'From Professional People' (includes a shot of engineer Paul Rodriguez).
Frame 2. 'Come Professional Grade Trucks.'
Frame 3. Close-up of the GMC logo on the truck's grille and the words, 'We Are Professional Grade.' Music up, fade to black.
That's an unusual way to present and sell truck performance - subtle, uncomplicated. And these words describe the campaign's other commercials, too.
Viewers aren't going to ask, 'What?' and 'Why did they do that?' Rather, it'll be 'When?' and 'Where can I test drive it?'
That makes this GMC campaign effective. And given the state of the automobile industry, that makes economic sense.