DETROIT -- A new advertising campaign for General Motors Service & Parts Operations plays down the Mr. Goodwrench character in favor of elephants, hockey players and, soon, NASCAR.
"We will have a NASCAR spot in the new year," says Daniel Hennessy, creative director at Leo Burnett Detroit, the ad agency that handles the GM Goodwrench account.
"And it will be an interesting portrayal of what might happen down the road," Hennessy told Automotive News.
The ad campaign, called "Down the Road," urges owners of GM vehicles to come to GM dealerships rather than independent shops for preventive maintenance.
GM did not disclose the cost of the campaign.
The first two TV spots began airing last month. They show motorists evading dangerous obstacles after they visit GM service centers for repairs. The hazards include an elephant that morphs into a cement mixer and ghostly hockey players that become oncoming traffic on an icy road.
The NASCAR TV spot will feature a GM-sponsored car in the racing series, Hennessy said.
The commercial is under development, he said.
The last Goodwrench ad campaign began in March 2003. TV spots portrayed acerbic comedian Stephen Colbert searching for Mr. Goodwrench.
Todd Snell, a dealer in Mankato, Minn., who sells six GM brands, says he was embarrassed by the previous campaign.
The Colbert character "was kind of obnoxious," Snell says. "We take the service part of our business pretty seriously. The comedy side didn't fit with who we are as a company."
Michelle Ostrowski, advertising manager for GM Goodwrench, says the old campaign built brand awareness by reintroducing Mr. Goodwrench to consumers. With the new campaign, she says, "It's time to refresh and move on."
Consumers associate Mr. Goodwrench with service expertise, Ostrowski says.
But Hank Weed, a marketing analyst with InterData Inc. in Sanibel Island, Fla., says he's skeptical that the new campaign will drive customers to the service bays of GM dealerships.
"If you're doing something new, then, terrific," Weed said.
"If you're not, it's a wasted expenditure."
Well-known brands such as Mr. Goodwrench do best when they advertise a new deal or sale price, he said.
"Goodwrench is a known brand, just like Chevrolet," Weed said. "Doing advertising for Chevrolet is like doing it for Coca-Cola. You either like Coke or you don't. So you have to give the consumer something new."
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A new advertising campaign urges buyers of GM vehicles to go to dealerships for preventive maintenance.