The effort, via Oakland, Calif.-based Carol H. Williams Advertising, aligns with GMC's long-standing "Professional Grade" brand identity but with a twist: pickup truck ads almost always show the vehicles doing blue-collar work, charging down rutted back roads, and hauling bales of hay or boats.
The campaign from Carol H. Williams puts the trucks in an urban setting, with computer-generated video that pays homage to the spirit of parcour, an urban extreme sport that started in France and is sometimes called "free running." It uses urban fixtures as pommel horses and involves gymnastic leaps and jumps from building to building, wall to wall, from balcony to balcony, or down stairways.
One of the two 30-second spots shows a black GMC Sierra Denali cruising city streets to hip-hop music. As onlookers turn to admire the vehicle, it suddenly veers off the road and climbs the vertical face of a skyscraper, leaping into the air at the top before shooting down the other side.
Then it "leaps" from one building roof to another as voiceover touts the truck's 400 horses, 20mpg. "The way you move will never be the same again," says the VO. "Experience the freedom of professional grade." The Sierra Crew Cab spot shows the truck doing similar moves as it makes its way to an urban construction site.
The ads were shot in Chicago. Background music is a song called "Gutterfly"* from a band called "Lifesavas*."
The ads will run during NBA playoff series on ESPN and ABC, and on TV One. Outdoor ads will appear in Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and Dallas. There will also be regional executions.
Kurt Herr, creative director at the agency, says parcour was an inspiration for the ads but that it's not meant to be a direct reference. Instead, it is "an embodiment of that spirit," he says. "We felt that free running is about doing things your own way, taking your own path. We felt our consumer was tired of being force-fed truck ads with mud and dirt. Our customer moves through an urban environment."
Herr says there is strong upside potential for pickup truck sales among African-Americans because automakers rarely do dedicated pickup truck advertising to that demographic. "It's an under-served consumer market," he says.
Consumers can also view the ads online, via a microsite within GMC's consumer site. The site also houses video segments on the making of the advertisements. It is also central to a sweepstakes, the Sierra Sweepstakes dangling the truck as grand prize.
The campaign will include regional executions as well, per Herr. Carol H. Williams has focused on GMC, and most recently, created ads for the division that starred NFL commentator James Brown* for the Yukon Denali SUV. The agency is also doing work for Cadillac, Hummer and now for Chevrolet. * This story has been amended since publication to correct an error.