After shocked and scared automotive marketers cut budgets and slashed campaigns in 2009, marketing wallets opened in 2010, especially in the second half of the year. Spending levels are coming back, and the recession-induced slumber seems to be over. On the personnel side, things were tumultuous. Decades-long relationships ended; some big-name executives switched jobs, then switched again. Here are 10 marketing moves that shook the industry.
1. Nissan, then General Motors, hires Ewanick
The ex-Hyundai Motor America marketing boss was six weeks into his new job at Nissan North America when GM offered him unprecedented authority over U.S. marketing. Joel Ewanick quickly shook up GM's staid culture, firing newly hired agencies and stealing former Hyundai execs. Ewanick brought Chevy back to life with a back-to-its-roots ad blitz and, in December, got a promotion to global chief marketing officer.
2. Chevrolet fires Campbell-Ewald
In one of the biggest agency moves in nearly a century, General Motors Co. ended the longest running agency relationship in the industry when it terminated Chevrolet's contract with Campbell-Ewald -- a connection that dated back to 1919. Campbell-Ewald was replaced by Publicis Groupe, which promptly lost the account four weeks later to San Francisco-based Goodby Silverstein & Partners, which had once worked with Ewanick at Hyundai.
3. Back in the big game
Car marketers have been a staple at the Super Bowl -- just not recently. In 2009 only three automakers ponied up the bucks to play in the biggest football game of the year. That's about to change. This year's game will have at least eight auto brands -- including BMW and Chevrolet, which have been on the sidelines for a few years. At $3 million per 30 seconds, it's further proof that automakers are breathing easier.
4. Toyota's marketing makeover
Toyota spent most of 2010 trying to contain a public relations time bomb. It used U.S. national newspaper and TV ads, lease and purchase incentives and even YouTube videos in an effort to disperse the black cloud caused by global recalls of millions of vehicles. A new Toyota Care program that included routine maintenance as standard for all vehicles improved showroom traffic, but quality and safety perceptions among consumers remained a problem.
5. The Joy of BMW
BMW of North America executed what it called its biggest and most comprehensive brand awareness blitz with its integrated -- and panned -- effort, themed "Joy," that broke during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. BMW defended the ads from GSD&M Idea City in Austin, Texas, saying BMW wasn't moving away from its longtime, "Ultimate Driving Machine" tag. But two months after the sudden death of BMW marketing boss Jack Pitney, GSD&M and BMW announced they were going separate ways. Germany said "Joy" remains the global tag.
6. Ford makes friends on Facebook
Instead of launching one of its most important vehicles at an auto show, Ford chose to reveal its 2011 Explorer on Facebook.com. The automaker is following up the launch with a Web campaign on Facebook called "Explorer Live" that offers videos for curious Explorer shoppers. Ford has spent 25 percent of its advertising budget on digital media in 2010, the same proportion as in 2009. But that ratio is twice what J.D. Power and Associates says will be the average digital media spend in 2012.
7. Mazda's new marketing 'Zoom'
It was a turbulent marketing ride for Mazda this year. It ended its 13-year contract with "Zoom- Zoom" creator Doner, then gave its five regional offices in the United States more autonomy to make marketing decisions tailored to their sections of the country. Mazda's new agency, the London-based WPP Group, has set up outposts for its new Team Mazda unit.
8. Hyundai's hot streak
Hyundai left its mark on the marketing world during the recession with Hyundai Assurance and pursued a high profile in 2010. During the World Cup soccer championship last summer, Hyundai bought nearly 300 U.S. TV commercial slots during the month-long TV broadcasts. Late last year its South Korean parent extended its contract with World Cup's governing body through 2022.
9. Subaru keeps growing
Subaru of America kept building momentum in 2010 with its "Love" campaign but took a bold step by creating the "Fight Mediocrity" blitz, poking fun at bland mid-sized sedans with the fake 2011 Mediocrity Motor Co.'s vanilla car.
10. Lexus looks for a new image
Twenty years after launch, Toyota's Lexus brand announced plans for a makeover. It will get a new global theme -- "progressive luxury" -- and a greater focus on hybrids, telematics and sporty packages. It's part of a plan to unify Lexus' global image. The aim of progressive luxury is to strengthen an identity of smart luxury -- where social responsibility and green credentials count as much as, if not more than, raw engine power and conspicuous consumption.