The mood is tense, the music anthemic. The opening scene has a car hurtling over a bridge, except that it is a scene in slow-motion reverse. From the end of the accident to its beginning, the spot looks at major touch points and asks: "What if?"
What if General Motors had not invented the highway median divider? What if General Motors had not invented the airbag? What would have happened to the lives of the people involved in this accident and in thousands others?
The point of the advertisement is to build GM's brand along dimensions that it is not typically associated - as an innovator of automotive safety technologies and as a responsible corporate citizen. The message is that GM improves the lives of all people who use cars - that any car on the road benefits from safety features pioneered by the automaker.
This campaign, designed by the Canadian advertising firm MaclarenMcCann, broaches an interesting branding challenge. How does one transform the brand equity of a major company, one whose cultural presence is iconic?
To be sure, this ad campaign was only one facet of GM's multi-channeled marketing approach. But it does raise the question of what it is to work with a brand's elasticity.