Editor's note: An earlier reference to one of the Chevy ads referred to the incorrect vehicle. It was the Malibu.
DETROIT -- Chevrolet this week will roll out a major advertising campaign, doubling down on the spoofy "focus group" imagery it has used in its rollout of the Colorado pickup.
Chevy will launch the "Real People, Not Actors" campaign in a series of media buys and dealer briefings planned across the country. The kickoff will coincide with the debuts of the next-generation Malibu sedan and Spark minicar at the New York auto show.
As part of the rollout, Chevy will sponsor ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" late-night talk show throughout the week. Two of the shows will include a special performance by Van Halen to preview a summer reunion tour for the 1980s rock band.
The approach uses humor to help Chevy address its biggest challenge: getting on the shopping lists of people who might never consider the brand, even though many industry watchers believe it's making its best vehicles ever. Chevy executives told Automotive News that the theme will be extended across the brand's lineup and stay in place for as long as two years.
Chevy executives have raved about the response they've gotten to the Colorado spots, which appeared online and in limited TV use for last fall's launch of the pickup, before a heavier round of airings this year. They said the ads exceeded their expectations on such metrics as brand recognition, likability and action, such as whether the viewers visited the website afterward.
The commercials have fun with the focus-group ritual used by automakers and other companies to glean consumer sentiment. They feature a moderator humorously ad-libbing his way through faux focus groups comprising real-life older people, little kids, "guys with beards" and "rich housewives."
The Colorado spots were meant to highlight the inherent coolness of driving a truck -- one group identified as "young single women" decided that the guy pictured next to a truck was perhaps less marriageable but more desirable than the same guy next to a nondescript car.
The next, larger batch of commercials will apply the format to some of Chevy's highest-volume nameplates, including the Equinox and Traverse crossovers and the Silverado pickup, as well as the current-generation Malibu. GM gathered nearly 400 non-Chevy owners in Los Angeles and filmed their reactions as they were shown features of the brand's cars and crossovers.
"By surprising them with what Chevrolet has on the road today, it closes that gap right away between the quality of our lineup and their perceptions," Paul Edwards, Chevy's U.S. vice president of marketing, said in an interview.
On the same 'New Roads'
Chevy's "Find New Roads" advertising tag line will remain in place. The ads will run throughout the year and include some commercials with Spanish speakers.
In one of the spots, created by McCann Worldgroup's Commonwealth agency, three children sat in the back seat of a Malibu watching a movie streamed onto tablet devices via the vehicle's 4G LTE wireless signal. The kids were then asked to move to the back seat of a Toyota to finish watching it. But, of course, no signal there. So they had to move back to the Malibu.
It's a flexible format that allows Chevy to give viewers various ways of thinking about the brand while also entertaining them, says Gary Stibel, CEO of New England Consulting Group, a marketing consultancy.
"It's some of the more effective advertising I've seen lately. I think the idea has legs," Stibel says. "Give them credit for being smart enough to realize that they've got something here and sticking with it."