General Motors Launches Star-Studded Campaign For OnStar

As automakers and consumer electronics companies move toward convergent technologies (see last Friday's story on Motorola's efforts to make mobile phones and cars make nice with each other), General Motors' 11-year-old telematics division, OnStar, is taking the spotlight in a GM corporate campaign, via Deutsch, Los Angeles, that seeks to remind consumers that OnStar does all that and more.

Per Andrew Young, OnStar's marketing director, there are five million OnStar subscribers in North America. General Motors, which already offers OnStar as standard equipment in 50 current-year vehicles, will this year start putting OnStar in just about every vehicle made by GM's eight divisions, Pontiac, Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Saturn, Saab, Hummer, and GMC. OnStar service, activated by a simple button perched on the rear-view mirror, is free for the first year and $199 per year thereafter.

The star-studded GM campaign highlights OnStar's ability to remotely unlock a car door, do vehicle diagnostics, give directions, locate a stolen vehicle and function as a hand-free phone, all with the implied message that OnStar gives GM vehicle owners the star treatment.



Ads, which launched Sunday on NBC and CBS Sunday night movies, includes an initial 60-second spot featuring three celebrities, as well as one regular person, each using OnStar with different GM vehicles.

The series of short vignettes starts with Tiger Woods sprinting over a golf green toward his Buick Enclave, while telling an OnStar assistant via cell phone that he's locked his keys in his car and asking if she would mind unlocking the doors.

Cut to TV host Kelly Ripa driving her GMC Yukon SUV, complaining to the OnStar assistant that she's getting a "check engine" warning light. He tells her it's her gas cap, which she realizes she has forgotten to latch.

Then we cut to L.A., where Jimmy Kimmel is on a cell phone to another OnStar person because he thinks his car's been stolen. She starts to connect him to the L.A. police when a valet shows up with his car. "Actually, I've apprehended the criminals, it's fine," he says.

The ad closes with a guy in a Saturn Aura whose infant is crying in the back seat. He uses OnStar as a speaker phone to get his wife to soothe the child. "Get the OnStar treatment. No matter who you are," says the voiceover. Tag: "OnStar, Active."

There will also be a series of 15-second spots starring Woods and Nascar race driver Jeff Gordon. In the latter, Jeff Gordon is driving a Chevy Avalanche while asking the OnStar attendant to do a diagnostic check for transmission, airbag system and emissions, and then find a car wash. "Two blocks down on your left hand side," she responds. Marketing director Young says other ads starring Lucy Liu and another celebrity are forthcoming.

The last such campaign used Batman and his Batmobile to tout OnStar. Meanwhile, Young says, OnStar is continuing its own five-year-long radio campaign, via OnStar's AOR of eight years, Campbell-Ewald, Michigan. "Real Calls" touts OnStar's function as a safety and accident feature, automatically responding when a car has an accident, or allowing first responders access to a car or a channel into the vehicle to speak with disabled passengers.

"The OnStar subscriber is treated as very special, whether it's Tiger Woods, or a regular person," says Young. As a GM corporate campaign, "it is a great opportunity for GM to take ownership."

He adds that OnStar right now is standard on all Buicks, Cadillacs, Hummers, Saturns, most Chevys, Pontiacs GMCs and Saabs, and that 60% of GM vehicle buyers continue with OnStar after the first free year.

Eric Hirshberg, chief creative officer at Deutsch, says the effort accomplishes two things. "One, not that many people know the breadth of what OnStar can do. They have done an amazing job of getting into people's heads what they have to do in terms safety. They have done a fabulous job of that. OnStar is like TiVo and iPod in that they are very hard to describe in terms of everything they do, but people who do have it can't live without it."

He says the campaign also adds a certain prestige to OnStar rep for safety and utility. "It's an image shift, that it's not just for 'responsible parents' but that it's also 'bragging rights' technology that's fun and cool and makes life better, and not only for people who have access to beck-and-call assistants, managers and valets. I think the fundamental concept is that OnStar offers that level of treatment for everyone."

GM says in April, OnStar subscribers made more than 15 million hands-free calls per month, 55,000 on-demand remote diagnostics were performed and over 2.5 million OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics e-mails.

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