Advertising Age, a sister publication of Automotive News, this month offered its annual list of the "Marketing 50" - the biggest brand success stories of the year. The auto industry contributed three of those successes. They are:
Pontiac marketing director Mark-Hans Richer, 38, isn't afraid of bold ploys. His most brazen stunt is paying off handsomely: the giveaway in September of 276 new G6 sedans on Oprah Winfrey's TV talk show.
The car giveaway had a retail cost of nearly $8 million. But Richer says it generated $20 million in unpaid public relations and media coverage the week it happened. And that doesn't count the follow-up videotaped visits Winfrey is paying to audience members, showing how getting the car changed their lives.
Richer joined Pontiac in 2002 as director of advertising and sales promotion. He has sought to elevate General Motors' performance brand. Promoted to marketing director in April, the Chicago native says he wants to make Pontiac more relevant with high-profile marketing plans.
Pontiac's efforts to promote the G6 included a 30-minute infomercial on cable TV last spring. Pontiac is advertising the G6 on the CBS reality TV show "Survivor." The car is featured in a weekly online poll about the show.
Robert Davis is in an enviable position: The 2004 models of the Mazda3 are virtually sold out.
Davis, 40, is senior vice president of marketing and product development at Mazda North American Operations. He faced the challenge of launching both the four-door Mazda3 sedan and five-door hatchback in January.
Davis says his team debated whether to create separate advertising campaigns for each vehicle because their target audiences vary. The median age of buyers of the hatchback is in the early 20s. For the sedan, it's the late 20s.
Mazda decided on a single TV campaign for both models. It created separate print ads for each car, in a different range of magazines.
On New Year's Day, Mazda advertised the cars on TV, in movie theaters, with newspaper wraps and even coffee sleeves. An online video in the spring for the Mazda3 was forwarded 600,000 times.
The Mazda3 was the featured model in Mazda's second "Rev It Up" amateur driving competition last spring. Davis, who has raced a Mazda Miata on weekends since 1996, says of the Mazda3: "This car is perfectly aligned with our brand and resonates with a young mind-set that wants cars that aren't compromised."
Country singer Toby Keith promotes the Ford F-150 pickup during concerts.
"We started at the place you're supposed to, but not everybody does - what's new about this product," says Stoddart, 39, Ford Division's marketing communications manager. "So much is focused on the sexy creative idea that marketers forget what they're here to do: Give the consumer a reason to buy."
Stoddart's team devised several key strategies. It aimed to explain how the new- generation F-150 was different from its predecessor, while building on the truck's heritage and leadership in its market segment. Among the priorities, Stoddart says, was a consistent message in all media advertising.
As part of a $100 million ad blitz, Stoddart used what he called "high-visibility media spikes" from September 2003 through January. Two long-form ads for the F-150 were the only commercials during last season's premiere of the Fox TV adventure series "24."
Surveys showed those spots scored in the top 1 percent of all new, prime-time network TV commercials for viewers' brand recall last year.
Ford also incorporated the F-150 in a concert tour starring country singer Toby Keith. "The integration on this is the best level I've ever been associated with," Stoddart says.
Ford got results: The automaker says it sold 777,642 F-series trucks from January through October - 11.7 percent more than in the year-ago period.
Ford does not break out F-150 sales but says they account for about 60 percent of all F-series sales.