Weekly Brief: GM Exploits Entertainment Route to EV Promotion

General Motors won the Super Bowl with a 60-second TV commercial featuring comedic legend Will Ferrell driving an EV through some of Netflix’s biggest hits.

He was seen getting kidnapped on Squid Games, helping a runaway bride on Love is Blind, bumbling his way through the high society of Bridgerton and getting eaten by the Army of the Dead. This is GM’s third straight year with a Super Bowl hit.

In 2021, the carmaker ran its “No Way, Norway” ad in which Will Ferrell stormed Norway, determined to crush the world’s per capita EV leader, only to end up in Finland smitten by Scandinavia. The following year the carmaker enlisted the services of “Dr. EV-il” of Austin Powers fame to take over GM headquarters and unwittingly save the world with EVs. As the carmaker looks to rebrand itself as an engine of an all-electric future, blockbuster ads have proven its best friend.

The surprising thing about the Super Bowl this year was not that GM showed out but that few other carmakers showed up. Carmakers are usually one of the most reliable advertising segments at the Super Bowl, taking full advantage of the game’s captive audience of a 100 million viewers to announce new cars and move vehicles off dealership lots. In 2022 the auto industry shelled out just shy of $100M, making it the night’s largest spender. This year instead of 10 auto brands just three carmakers signed up: GM, Kia and Stellantis. Auto accessory company Weathertex also advertised a 30-second bit, highlighting its made-in America products.

If you’re wondering the reason for the decline, look no further than the state of the auto industry today. Most carmakers are busy trying to dig themselves out of the 2022 doldrums, when supply chain woes caused dealerships to run dry and significantly diminished year-over-year sales. Super Bowl ads are notoriously expensive. Thirty-second slots are rumored to have cost about $7.5M this year, meaning that GM’s 60-second Netflix ad could have cost in the ballpark of $15M. GM was keeping mum on how much it paid.

Regardless, carmakers aren’t eager to spend lavishly on marketing right now, especially as they commit billions of dollars to going electric in the next five years. New factories, new lithium mines and new technologies to drive greater EV range probably felt like a better use of money than a thirty-second gag reel. They may be right but Kia, Stellantis and GM certainly didn’t mind the lack of company.

GM and Netflix used their ad to announce a strategic partnership between the two companies. Netflix is joining GM’s “Everybody In” campaign to expedite an all-electric future and will increase the presence of EVs in Netflix-produced shows and films. Over the course of the next year, GM EVs will be seen in Love is Blind, Queer Eye and Unstable, which will feature the Chevrolet Bolt EUV, GMC Hummer EV pickup and Cadillac LYRIQ respectively. “Entertainment has a huge impact on culture,” said GM global chief marketing officer Deborah Wahl. “We want to make EVs famous on streaming, small and silver screens to build an EV culture through storytelling that incorporates the experiences of driving and owning an EV.”

Netflix stressed that it will not force its content creators to use GM EVs and insists that this is not product placement. Neither would reveal the financial details of the arrangement.

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