GM spending big bucks on radio stars


According to an Automotive News article this week, General Motors is recruiting many of America’s best known radio personalities-including Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Laura Schlessinger and Whoopi Goldberg-to talk up its vehicles on air. GM gives the hosts new cars two weeks each month and brings them to Detroit for meetings with company execs-wow!

Hannity did a big GM car giveaway a few months back and talked about driving the loaners. Limbaugh has also talked about his staffers driving a loaner Cadillac in conjunction with promoting GM vehicles, so this isn’t all new. Dennis Donlin, President/GM Planworks, tells RBR: "In some ways radio is very analogous to social networking. DJ’s create a community of sorts, and this initiative allows GM to enter that community as a guest."

Excerpts: "GM says it doesn’t pay the stars directly for their endorsements, although it advertises on their shows. It gives them new GM cars and trucks to drive for two weeks each month. The company also invites the celebrities to Detroit for private meetings with top executives and VIP tours of GM facilities.

The attention is paying off. One day last month, for example, Limbaugh – who has the largest audience in talk radio – told his listeners that "GM cars and trucks have never been better. GM has a ton of momentum,” Limbaugh enthused. "They are working hard and they are thinking smart. Believe in General Motors, folks. They’re a classic American company doing it all.”

A Dallas disc jockey named Atom Smasher told his listeners: "I am driving around in this Cadillac, and I am not going to want to give it back – the Cadillac SRX. Named best luxury SUV three years in a row. And do they look good blinged-out. To all of the guys at GM: Good job.”

Said another Dallas DJ, Chris Ryan: "Have you seen all the cool things that’s going on at GM? I have. If you’re thinking about a new car, you got to look to GM.”

Sam Mancuso, GM’s director of brand marketing alliances and operations, told the mag the company initiated contacts this spring with 17 national radio hosts, as well as dozens of local personalities in cities such as Dallas and LA. Mancuso said he and Betsy Lazar, GM executive director of advertising and media operations, have done much of the wooing. GM’s monitoring confirms that the personalities are talking about the company’s vehicles on their programs, Mancuso said. But he insisted that GM does not give any of them a script, nor are they required to mention GM.

The full list of major talent includes Michael Baisden, Glenn Beck, Delilah, Whoopi, Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Limbaugh, George Noory, O’Reilly, Bill Press, Jim Rome, Dr. Laura, Ed Schultz, Ryan Seacrest, Keith Sweat, John Tesh and Big Tigger.

RBR/TVBR observation: Call it plugola if you like, but it’s all above board and it’s about using radio for the ad vehicle it really can be. They are just being asked to speak with the execs, drive the vehicles and talk about them. GM has done some interesting things with their vehicles, such as invite folks to test drive them on impromptu driving courses at stadium parking lots. Just get in one line and drive GM cars; another BMW; Toyota; Ford, etc. Sometimes putting folks behind the wheel is the best form of advertising.