General Motors announced last week that it will not buy any spots for the 2013 Super Bowl.
This is a fairly surprising decision because this year General Motors made a huge investment in the Super Bowl; GM ran four spots, including three for Chevrolet and one for Cadillac. The company also spent an enormous amount on production; the Chevy Sonic spot, for example, featured a bungee-jumping car and the musical group OK Go. I suspect it cost GM more than $3 million just to produce the Chevy Sonic ad, and that GM spent more than $15 million in total on Super Bowl advertising.
To completely reverse course is quite a change. GM could have scaled back the investment, perhaps running just one spot with a modest production budget. Total spending might have fallen by 80 percent. To walk away entirely is a huge shift.
So what’s behind the decision not to advertise at all on the Super Bowl?
The official line from GM is that the cost is just getting too high. Prices apparently will be up again, now reaching $3.8 to 4 million for a 30-second spot. In a statement, Joel Ewanick, global CMO at GM, explained the situation, “We understand the reach the Super Bowl provides, but with the significant increase in price, we simply can’t justify the expense.”
I’m confident that Joel is being totally honest about the rationale. But that still leaves the bigger question: why can’t GM justify the expense?
One thing we can conclude with certainty is that GM wasn’t pleased with the 2012 experience. If this year had gone well, then the company would stick with the current strategy. It would be easy to justify the expense.
Of course, I’m not surprised that GM wasn’t thrilled with this year’s game. The investment was huge and the impact was probably favorable but not great. The Cadillac spot was feeble (the Kellogg panel gave it a D) and the Chevy spots were individually strong (Kellogg grade: B) but taken together the spots highlighted Chevy’s core positioning problem: What does the brand stand for, anyway?
Perhaps GM doesn’t want the scrutiny that comes with advertising on the Super Bowl, or maybe GM is worried about the competition.
Either way, I think it is an odd decision, and not a good one for GM. There is nothing like the Super Bowl, and GM will be noted for its absence.
I predict GM will be back in 2014, just as Pepsi returned after taking a pass in 2010.