GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick drops another media bombshell with decision to axe Super Bowl

When was there ever a CMO like General Motors’ Joel Ewanick?

Hard on the heels of dumping Facebook from his advertising schedule in the week of its IPO, Ewanick (pictured) has announced that he’s skipping the 2013 Super Bowl too, claiming that the $4m or so NBC asking for spots in the US ad showcase are too expensive. “We understand the reach the Super Bowl provides, but with the significant increase in price, we simply can’t justify the expense,” he says. 2012 Super Bowl spots were about $3.5m.

On the face of it this seems reasonable enough; Ewanick is, after all, on a self-proclaimed mission to trim $2bn from GM’s marketing costs over five years. As with all such prime media opportunities, the best Super Bowl deals go to advertisers who buy a package of ads so the Super Bowl is only worth it (to a big advertiser anyway) if it spends much more than $4m. Some will spend $20m or so.

And GM isn’t the only car advertiser to duck the Super Bowl challenge. The other US car giant Ford also prefers to spend its money elsewhere.

As much as anything, choosing the Super Bowl is a creative choice. It is a showcase and, as such, a splendid opportunity for smaller car brands to take on the giants and win. The last two years have seen creative honours go to number three US car company Chrysler with Wieden+Kennedy’s ‘Imported from Detroit’ breakthrough ad with Eminem in 2011 and Clint Eastwood and ‘Halftime in America’ this year. Foreign companies like Volkswagen with both its Audi and VW brands have also made a big splash.

Ewanick recently shifted GM’s flagship Chevrolet account to a new agency Commonwealth, comprised of former US agency Goodby Silverstein (appointed by Ewamick shortly after moving in) which is jointly owned by Omnicom and McCann owner Interpublic. To a degree his reputation rests on what Commonwealth comes up with and it may be that the Super Bowl is too daunting a stage, with acres of press coverage and YouTube comment.

GM claims its ad spend in the US will be ‘flat’ this year although Ad Age reports that, according to Kantar figures, it fell from $2.13bn in 2010 to $1.78bn last year although the figures don’t include some online advertising including paid-for search. It spent $10m on Facebook before pulling the budget.

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