GM TV commercial thanks American public for bailing them out but are we buying it?

December 2, 2010

General Motors is running a remarkable TV commercial dramatizing its near collapse and subsequent rise. It’s an anthem depicting various semi-famous Americans who’ve fallen during the course of their careers and then valiantly gotten back up. For example, we see Evil Kenevil wipe out something fierce and then later in the spot, with help, get up. We also glimpse the dejected frat boys from Animal House (the movie) followed by a piece from John Belushi’s notorious rallying cry. There’s Popeye the Sailor pre and post spinach. Finally, the iconic photo of President Truman holding up the newspaper saying he lost the election. The images are cut to a lovely piano concerto. The lone super reads: We all fall down. Thank you for helping us get back up. (GM. Since 1908)

In terms of emotional filmmaking, it’s a nice piece of work. But is it a good idea? I’m not sure but I do applaud them for owning their failure as a company…sort of. The American taxpayer was obligated to help GM, whether they liked it or not. Billions of dollars. My understanding is that they have since paid us back. But does that give America’s biggest car company the license to thank us? Shouldn’t they have apologized for tripping themselves up at everyone’s expense? Maybe they did. Perhaps the better question is whether we ought to accept this image building campaign for what it is: a token of gratitude.

If the goal was quiet bravery then score. But underneath all that tear-jerking honesty is the legitimate image of arrogant old men ruining a company and lining their pockets in the process.

Apologizing for failure is vogue right now. Look at what Dominoes Pizza is doing. In addition, social media lets brands be blue and true and then LOL. Famous people keep screwing up and asking the public to forgive them. Christ, it’s like our country has become one big confession booth. The cynical takeaway: Forgive us for our sins and get 20 percent off your next purchase.

From what I’ve gathered, General Motors is on the rebound. Good for them. Good for us, too… right?


13 Responses to “GM TV commercial thanks American public for bailing them out but are we buying it?”

  1. The commercial is also effective because many Americans can relate to it, having taken a hard fall themselves over the past couple of years. The “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” sentiment will resonate strongly with them and GM becomes almost a sideshow.

  2. […] -Is the American public buying GM’s commercial thanking them for bailing the automaker out? link […]

  3. jim schmidt said

    They didn’t fall down. They were mismanaged by egomaniacs and buffoons for 30 years or more. (Anyone remember “Roger and Me”?) The commercial makes it seem as though they had a little bit of bad luck but thanks to all of us reaching out and helping (like we had a choice) everything is now good. The spot itself is a glorified pitch-video–albeit, a nicely executed one–that includes everything but the kitchen sink. Obviously, you drink very strong Kool-Aid when you win a piece of business this big.

    • mellonhead said

      true…they were mismanaged and didn’t fall down as the spot portrays but it’s a good diversion. i keep waiting for the ‘ah-hah’from g.m. they need bob lutz in one of these spots. the advertising is not there yet.

    • Brook said

      I’m with Jim. GM was an epic fail. Crappy products for years, a car line that was unmanageable, and poor design/marketing. I think Americans are done falling for the “American Dream” commercials. GM needs to stop pushing American images back on to the American public, it’s cliché and overdone. It’s sad and I’m not buying it. Plus they owe me and a lot of other “Americans” a lot of money. Time to collect.

    • I agree with Jim. The ad is disingenuous and dishonest.The ad implies they were beaten in a fair fight, or were victims of an accident. They weren’t. As even a casual observer would tell you, GM was managed in an incredibly arrogant and myopic way for decades.
      Furthermore, “thank you” implies the bailout was our choice. It wasn’t. It was decided for us by the unelected plutarchy that runs our country.
      I notice the ad does not mention that GM still owes over 20 billion dollars. It also does not mention that GM is now making political contributions to candidates using taxpayer dollars. (Mostly Democrats.)

  4. abe grest said

    since when does incompetence make them a victim…they deserved it and should spend their time and money on improving not tugging heartstrings

  5. Mark Boles said

    Anthem spots like this seem to be what companies like GM are best at. And let’s be honest, any one of us in the agency business can come up with something to tug at your heartstrings. The question is whether or not GM has actually learned anything. I say it all the time… brands are built based on what you do, not what you say. So the fact that GM has this spot running concurrently with the spot about deciding that now is the right time to think about how they as a company impacts the environment makes me think they still don’t get it. As a company, they continue to be reactive. Until they show me that they’re willing to take risks, to innovate, to change how they’re perceived, how “we” as an American company is perceived, frankly, I’m not buying it.

  6. SRP said

    Thanks for all the comments.
    Like some of you, I’m of two minds.
    I like the spot as creative piece of emotional hokum.
    But I have a problem with GM spin as “fallen.”

  7. I find that, to me, this commercial is manipulative and a farcical spin on a company that ran itself into the ground. That said, it’s a really good commercial. The primary aspect of my opinion I have to take into account in an attempt to be objective is that it wasn’t made for me. In my opinion it was made for a more blue collar American than myself. People who have had their own personal American dream ripped from them in the past few years. They are angry at the company they got laid off from, the bank that took their house and the politicians that let it all happen. They have asked the question who is to blame and everyone has pointed fingers at someone else. GM pointed the blame at themselves and to a large portion of the country that means something. Also it helps that the imagery used is all from a “simpler time” when the world wasn’t so awful and America really felt on top (Seriously the newest thing in the commercial is Animal House from 1978 and it was set in 1962). Right now Americans want to feel proud of something right now ans have faith that something is going to make the desolate wasteland that is the job market feel better. For me the 1950’s manufacturing driven America is not my idea of a perfect world but for some people it is and this commercial is perfect for them.

  8. Tanq & Tonic said

    Frankly I am not sure the average American is going to believe anything they hear from GM for some time.

  9. Kenneth Hunt said

    The commercial for the Chevrolet Malibu on Thanksgiving evening on the Jeopardy Program spelled Malibu—Malibul. I thought you might want to know that someone really goofed.


  10. Kenneth Hunt said

    The commercial, on Jeopardy, was really screwed up. They spelled Malibus (Plural) Malibuls. Thought you’d want to know.


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