Commentary

Media Boutique of the Year -- GM Planworks

When it comes to the amount of ink generated by media shops in 2005, it was hard to ignore the acreage accumulated by gm Planworks. In a difficult year for the auto industry and for General Motors in particular, the media shop made headlines in May by snaring the auto giant's estimated $3.2 billion domestic media buying assignment, the largest in history.

Planworks, which already held the GM planning account, promptly launched a number of hugely successful branded entertainment campaigns, transferred some of GM's upfront spending into new media, launched new research initiatives, and segued its traditional media department into a video integration group which, by all accounts, will impact how media planning is conducted across the board. These are all the reasons why the Publicis Groupe-owned Planworks, a full-service media company dedicated to GM, has been named Media's Media Boutique of the year for 2005.

GM Planworks' success is attributable to equal parts innovation, industry leadership, and business growth, not to mention a dollop of creativity and a deep roster of talent. In an effort to brand gm as part of an integral media experience, some of 2005's more innovative campaigns included placing the Pontiac Solstice in "The Apprentice," the launch of Cadillac's "Under 5," and a Chevy HHR promotion on the "Tonight Show."

When the Pontiac Solstice was featured on "The Apprentice," for example, 1,000 special edition vehicles sold in 41 minutes and generated waiting lists for the remaining inventory. In addition, gm vehicles turned up on "Desperate Housewives," "CSI," and "Survivor." GM divisions were also prominently displayed in late-night and special programming, as well as in several sports programs, with the GMC on "Monday Night Football" and the Hummer ad playing during the NFL draft.

Perhaps the most creative of such endeavors was the Chevy HHR launch. The idea emanated from a Sunday afternoon work session with gm's creative agency, Campbell-Ewald, and involved trying to get consumers to use the letters HHR in original ways, such as holding up the sign at stadiums or using it on call-in radio shows. The idea also led to the successful "HHR-ya" promotion that culminated in a fully sponsored "Tonight Show," during which comedian Andy Dick revealed the winners.

The idea really began to take off when the Planworks team tried to demonstrate the possibilities to the client with a live example. Members of the Campbell-Ewald and Planworks teams flew to New York and appeared on NBC's "Today" show holding mysterious HHR signs behind the anchorpeople. Later that day, footage of the show was added to a client presentation. The surprised client bought the idea on the spot.

An early adopter of digital technology in 2005, GM, perhaps more so than other auto marketers, embraced new media via digital video recorders, broadband, and mobile phones.

To satisfy GM's need for a more powerful, efficient, and flexible media buying operation, Planworks created a new style of strategic media research, yielding valuable consumer insights and accountability. Last fall, Planworks launched its video investment group in a bid to rid itself of perceived artificial firewalls, create a more fluid approach, and negotiate video content across all platforms, including national and local broadcast, broadband, print, and branded entertainment.

At a time when media is changing faster than anyone could have predicted, GM Planworks, by investing in an integrated planning philosophy and combining traditional and digital planning, is proving to be leading the charge for change, rather than merely reacting to it.

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