GM Diverts More Ad Dollars Down Digital Highway

19 March 2008

DETROIT: General Motors is planning a seismic shift in its marketing spend during the next three years - and where the world's number one automaker leads, others will inevitably follow.

According to unnamed company executives, half GM's $3 billion (€1.89bn; £1.48bn) annual budget is to be rerouted from traditional media to digital and one-to-one marketing, including gaming, mobile and interactive.

The trend away from TV and print is reflected in recent changes in the corridors of power at GM Planworks, the dedicated Starcom MediaVest Group agency that services the automaker's media planning and buying needs.

New president/general manager Ken Taylor is charged with reintegrating Planworks into its parent company (part of the Publicis Groupe conglomerate) although Starcom USA ceo Laura Desmond insists the unit would not disappear.

She declared: "As GM has streamlined and got more agile, it seemed only appropriate to move from a siloed business approach to a more flexible, nimble approach that'd allow them to access all our centers of excellence." 
It will give GM, for example, access to Starcom's branded-entertainment division and allow it to take advantage of the group's buying and planning power. In addition, the automaker can tap Publicis' prize acquisition, Digitas, for digital planning and execution.

GM's North America vp for vehicle sales, service and marketing, Mark LaNeve remains zip-lipped about numbers and strategy details but did say: "Like all major marketers, we've moved into digital media in a big way, but the other media types are still very important and will still be a big part of our mix."

Small consolation for broadcasters and publishers facing the consequences of economic meltdown in the US and elsewhere.

Rival Hyundai Motor America is also doubling its online adspend this year compared with 2007. Marketing vp Joel Ewanick proclaims ominously: "Online is getting to the point where it may be more important than the 30-second TV spot."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff