Perhaps a sign that the relentless marketing blitz behind the Chevrolet Volt is starting to wind down, GM announced this week that there will be no multi-million dollar advertisement for the Volt at this year's big game.

In fact, there will be no presence whatsoever from the General.   GM's marketing chief Joel Ewanick said this in a prepared statement:

“We understand the reach the Super Bowl provides, but with the significant increase in price, we simply can’t justify the expense.”


The Chevrolet Volt ad last year cost GM about 3.5 million to air, and unlike the year previous, the 'alien experience' was not received well by viewers or the media (both 2011 and 2012 videos cand be seen below).

Adding fuel to the fire, was some backlash about how sales of the extended range electric car did not warrant the amount of exposure it was receiving...which of course, famously brought Fox news back around to their "Government Motors" and "taxpayer's money" commentary.

Disregarding the sensationalistic none sense from Fox, it is hard not to realize that GM has indeed spent an all-time amount on the Volt versus actual sales.  The fact GM has sent out many hundreds of millions promoting the car, and has gotten a return of less than 14,000 units sold since December of 2010, makes one question the motives behind it?  There could only be two possible reasons for the this kind of prolonged, deep-pocketed ad buy:

  • GM thinks the car is the next Prius, and will promote it until reality justifies the spending
  • GM wants to keep the shine on its self proclaimed 'halo' car for the company
Whatever the reason, something has changed at GM, and despite Mr. Ewanick's reasoning, it is not the cost of the Super Bowl tv time.  Sure, early ad buys this year put the cost of a Super Bowl ad for a one time/one piece buy close to 4 million for a 30 second spot, but that number drops as low as 3.7 for multiple ads (which GM did last year), and lower still, around 3.5 million, for returning advertisers.


Essentially, GM was getting the same price from CBS this year, as it did last year on NBC.  Past all that, what is a couple hundred thousand to GM's 3.8 billion dollar ad budget for the biggest event of the year?  Or the fact that GM has spent over 50 million dollars in the last 5 Super Bowls it participated in (sitting bankruptcy year-2009 out).  Like the decision to pull ads from Facebook, this was a signal that times are changing on the way GM does business.

A more likely scenario, comes from GM's marketing chief himself from before last year's game, where Ewanick, fresh from just overhauling GM's advertising department, told Ad Age the following:

"We have five or six other groups monitoring, then we’ll have next-day research,  copy testing, focus groups.  There’s a lot of money involved  here. You have to really understand your ROI to make sure you learn from this,  so you can apply that the next year.”

Apparently, GM has re-evaluated the ROI (return on investment) on its cars, and specifically the value of national exposure for the Volt at large events.  Expect to see a lot less of the car on the air than you have been accustomed to in the past.  From now on, the Volt with have to justify its place in the Chevrolet brand based on the merits (sales) of the car, and not its halo.


2011 Super Bowl "Discovery" Ad: 2012 Super Bowl "Aliens" Ad:

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