Dewar, 49, is leading GM's massive effort to diversify its media strategies. He wants to sharpen the identities of the company's eight brands. And he must address both tasks while GM struggles to return to profitability.
"There's a new sheriff in town," says Dewar, who spent two years as Chevrolet's general marketing manager before GM promoted him in March.
GM is "looking for better creativity" from its six ad agencies, Dewar says.
He is developing a system that will compensate the agencies based on the retail sales and consumer image of the brands they handle.
Dewar also is "changing the budgets" of GM's divisions to place greater emphasis on reaching sales prospects and keeping in touch with owners after they buy GM vehicles.
"We do not want to go to market with all the divisions the same way," he says.
GM plans to make "some dramatic media decisions," Dewar says.
Although GM will not stop advertising on broadcast TV networks, he says, it plans to increase its presence in new media.
The automaker is boosting its marketing and advertising budget, Dewar says. But it will allocate its spending differently from the way it did in the past, he says.
Dewar served on the panel that last month chose Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest unit to handle GM's $3.3 billion media buying account.
GM fired the account's previous holder, the GM Mediaworks unit of Interpublic Group of Companies.
"The traditional media model was about efficiency," Dewar says. "But what we are saying to our partners now is we want to be more effective."
Dewar must align GM's marketing efforts with the company's new "total value plan."
Elements of the plan include sticker pricing that is closer to transaction prices, along with simplified options packages.
GM aims to use the plan to sell its vehicles on their merits, not with industry-leading incentives. For example, GM will make its OnStar communications system standard on all models by 2007.
This year, Dewar's marketing initiatives will depend largely on the success of GM's launches of key models. They include the Chevrolet HHR wagon and Pontiac Solstice roadster.
One of Dewar's buzzwords is "bretail." He defines it as a message that conveys a vehicle's features, benefits and position in the marketplace while it invites consumers to try the car or truck.
As an example, Dewar cites a TV commercial during last year's Super Bowl that launched the Chevrolet Aveo. The spot depicted tall basketball players as small inside the budget car to demonstrate its roominess. The spot also referred to the Aveo's low price.
Tommy Brasher, a Chevrolet and Buick dealer in Weimar, Texas, describes Dewar as "brilliant" and "a hands-on super guy."
Dewar has "had a great career," says Brasher, who sits on GM's dealer advisory board. Dewar's only weakness, Brasher says, is that he "works too many hours."
"As long as I've known him," Brasher says of Dewar, "he always says we'll get together for a round of golf. Yeah, right."
Up the ladder
Dewar, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, is the fourth of five children. His father was a high-school principal.
Dewar joined GM's Canadian operations in 1978. He held several supervisory and management posts in sales, service, marketing and finance.
In 1988, Dewar came to the United States as Chevrolet's strategic planning manager. He also had several field marketing and sales jobs.
In 1994, GM sent Dewar to Brazil to manage its marketing there. He rose to executive director of sales, service and marketing. In 2000, he returned to the United States as general manager of GM's 15-state Northeast region.
As Chevrolet's general marketing manager, Dewar expanded the brand's Test Drive Challenge from five markets in 2003 to 22 in 2004 and 55 this year. GM tracks leads from the test drives to actual sales.
Dewar also introduced Chevrolet's biggest ad campaign, "An American Revolution," at the end of 2003. But, he warns, ad messages don't supersede products.
"Your message has to be congruent to your product and the medium," Dewar says. "When you line that all up, you have a home run."