Chevy campaign presents detractors, opportunities

DETROIT: Even though some net denizens have hijacked an online campaign for the 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet insists that 85% of the more than 20,000 ads created have been positive and the critics' ads have helped the company discuss its fuel economy.

DETROIT: Even though some net denizens have hijacked an online campaign for the 2006 Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet insists that 85% of the more than 20,000 ads created have been positive and the critics' ads have helped the company discuss its fuel economy.

For a recent cross-promotion with NBC's Apprentice, the company encouraged consumers to generate their own Chevy Tahoe commercial on Chevyapprentice.com. Anti-SUV critics have use the site as an opportunity to make commercials excoriating the Bush Administration, GM, and the price of gas.

The media pounced on the negative ads, and Chevrolet's team spent yesterday responding to media requests across the board. Mike Albano, communications director for Chevrolet, said that the company anticipated some criticisms and were not going to end the campaign.

"It festered into a media story yesterday, which is fine. We didn't feel the need to back down or pull the campaign," Albano said. "Certainly some of the media were surprised that we expected it and were still willing to do it. Chevrolet realized there was some risk, but felt it was a great way to interact with the consumers."

But Albano said those who attacked Tahoe's gas consumption were wrong.

"The irony is a small cross-section of negative ads is attacking the Tahoe's fuel consumption when [at 22 miles per gallons], it is the only full-sized SUV getting over 20 miles per gallon," Albano said, adding that Chevrolet also fields a Tahoe that runs on ethanol and is promoting it via its "Live Green, Drive Yellow" campaign launched earlier this year.

In fact, Albano said the company was looking at different ways to use the media exposure of negative ads to further discuss Tahoe's fuel economy. He added that he was making sure to educate every reporter who called about the ads on Tahoe's fuel efficiency compared to competitors.

Albano said that the company did not work with any of its external PR agencies for the campaign. The communications department worked with ad agency Campbell-Ewald starting last week to prepare for what might come. While he did say the communications team did not anticipate such media attention, he did not feel the team was unprepared to handle the campaign's unintended effects.

"Chevy is willing to take chances online and through traditional media sources," Albano said. "The car industry is different than it was five to ten years ago, and the way to communicate to your customers has [also] changed."

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