DETROIT -- Advertising veteran Gary Topolewski -- the man credited for helping revive Cadillac with Led Zeppelin-pumping television commercials -- has taken criticism over his work before, but never so publicly and under such a spotlight.
Topolewski, who owns an eponymous ad firm in suburban Detroit, was hired last fall by the local office of Chicago advertising giant Leo Burnett to collaborate on Buick campaign creative work.
The result was the initial commercial called Photo Shoot thats part of a wider campaign. The spot shows a trendy West Coast-type director at a fashion model pool party, but instead of women the stars are the Buick Enclave and LaCrosse.
That reportedly didnt sit well with new General Motors marketing and advertising vice president Bob Lutz, and with GM CEO Fritz Henderson, both of whom singled out Buick and its advertising for criticism recently.
The drama fueled several media stories, including one in Automotive News last week.
Topolewski defended the work, which he said was aimed at breaking the stranglehold on the perception of Buick as old and stuffy, but is willing to do whatever GM and Leo Burnett want.
If it doesnt quite meet what expectations are, well adjust accordingly, he said. The idea was to gain attention for Buick, which I think it surely did.
Nor is he surprised by the criticism. With GM and Chrysler under intense scrutiny because of federal loans and bankruptcy, everything is heightened and magnified, he said.
Its all understandable. Ive never worked for a company thats gone through what theyve gone through. Everything is under a microscope so you have to be careful and think through what youre doing, he said.
(Criticism) goes with the territory. Ive been in those situations before. I dont know where its going to go. No ones got a corner on the market on great ideas. If someone has a better idea, were all for it.
Topolewski worked at Leo Burnett Detroit predecessor Chemistri, BBDO and the now-defunct Detroit office of FCB Worldwide.
Leo Burnett was reportedly told last year to hire him by Mark LaNeve, GMs former North American vice president for sales and marketing, to spruce up Buick.
A Leo Burnett spokeswoman on Friday said she needed to clear any comment to media on the situation with GM.
Its been a time of uncertainty for Leo Burnett in Detroit in recent years.
The suburban Detroit office lost 80 people after GM stripped the $225 million national Cadillac account and gave it to a Boston agency in 2006. In a reversal of fortune the next year, Leo Burnett got the $122 million Buick account (moved from McCann Erickson in Birmingham, which had the account since the 1950s) and the $261 million GMC account to go along with $100 million Pontiac, which is now being phased out.
Companywide, Leo Burnett reportedly trimmed 50 jobs in January and the suburban Detroit office has about 200 staffers today.
Topolewski characterized the new Buick commercials as collaborative.
It was one of things, Why dont we put our heads together on this assignment, Topolewski said. It wasnt forced or anything like that. It was one of those things where a lot of people were involved in the process.
For now, hes waiting to hear whats going to happen with the campaign and isnt worried about public criticism. His agency is also working on heath care industry campaigns and on the Motor City Bowls marketing.
He said: I dont take it personally.