By any measure, Pontiac's promotion people hit a home run last month when they hooked up with Oprah Winfrey and gave away 276 new Pontiac G6s - one to each member of the studio audience.
It was the sort of promotion that takes your breath away. Several people asked to have the news repeated because it seemed so unbelievable.
It was a sales promotion that will go down in marketing history. If you're wondering whether spending $7 million on the giveaway was too much or too little, keep in mind that that reflects the manufacturer's suggested retail price. My guess is that Pontiac was able to get the cars a mite cheaper than sticker price.
But there was a buzz about Pontiac that hasn't been heard for a long time. I can't remember when there were so many positive feelings about the brand, which has been struggling for about a decade.
So here are millions of people talking about the new Pontiac and all charged up to rush right out to their local Pontiac dealer and plunk down their money to buy one, right?
Except that while the promotion people hit a four-bagger, the distribution folks struck out. There won't be enough new models in the pipeline for another 30 days or so. In other words, the potential customer walks into the dealership and is told to come back in a month. Wow!
If it weren't so common, it might be funny. How often have we seen a product advertised and discovered that it won't be available for another month or two? Or, worse, the retailer doesn't know anything about the product?
For example, I saw a wristwatch I liked in a local newspaper ad and called the retailer to find out more about it. He told me he didn't have the watch in stock and doubted he could get one. And it was the retailer who ran the ad.
So it doesn't happen only in the automobile business. But when a car brand spends money on an innovative promotion and the distribution side of the business can't get the product to dealers, somebody messed up.
Effective promotion demands that everything runs in sync. If it doesn't, the millions of dollars spent on the promotion fall between the cracks.