GM Pulls About-Face on Facebook, While Site Courts More Advertisers


With GM pulling an about-“face” and now returning to Facebook as a limited advertiser, could the company’s re-embrace of Super Bowl advertising be far off? Either way, Facebook is continuing to push skeptical advertisers to take a closer look at its site.

Chevrolet is advertising on Facebook again, in a test of mobile ads for the Chevy Sonic, less than a year after General Motors’ very public repudiation of the effectiveness of paid advertising on the site. The brand “is testing a number of mobile advertising solutions, including Facebook, as part of its ‘Find New Roads’ campaign,” Chris Perry, vice president of U.S. Chevrolet marketing, said in a confirming statement issued by GM in the wake of a story published by Advertising Age.

It’s an “industry-first mobile-only pilot campaign” for Sonic that “utilizes newly available targeting and measurement capabilities of Facebook.”[more]

In other words, GM only came back to the Facebook advertising fold after several months of wrangling with Facebook executives, with intensity varying at times, over ways to improve tracking of advertising results on the site and how to boost its effectiveness. GM had spent $10 million on ads on Facebook during the previous year but found little return beyond what its brands could get through use of their free Facebook pages. Among other things, Facebook executives reportedly also had been urging GM to do even more free media on its brand pages, rather than paid, before GM left.

GM’s then-CMO, Joel Ewanick, made a point of publicly criticizing Facebook advertising and disclosed GM’s decision just before an IPO for Facebook that ended up being a debacle, mainly for other reasons. At the time, some automotive rivals, notably Ford, defended their advertising on the site but other brand executives muttered agreement with Ewanick.

But things change. For one thing, Ewanick left in a shakeup at GM last summer. Since then, acting GM CMO Alan Batey has been walking back most of Ewanick’s big decisions, also including ad-agency relationships and campaign themes.

Could a GM return to Super Bowl advertising be far behind the Facebook decision? Ewanick balked at committing GM to advertise during Super Bowl XLVII in February, citing the cost of about $4 million for a 30-second spot. However, Chevrolet long had been a major advertiser during the Big Game—and GM’s heavy schedule of new-product launches this year traditionally would have suggested the use of America’s largest marketing platform to help out.

Batey apparently hasn’t reversed that decision—yet. But he told brandchannel recently that GM “may be” advertising again during Super Bowl XLVIII next February. “I want to make sure we really understand why we’re doing something and what the clear objectives are,” he said. “With the right insight and the right idea and the right reason for doing it,” Batey said, GM will consider advertising in the next big game.

For its part, Facebook cited its ongoing dialogue with GM over the last year. The site is “pleased to have them back as an advertiser,” Facebook said in a statement, according to Business Insider. “We look forward to working even more closely with GM in the coming weeks and months.”

In the meantime, Facebook is trying harder to win more advertising dollars by using new ways to cull personal information from outside the social network and metch it with data submitted by its billion-plus users, according to the Wall Street Journal. The efforts helped win back GM and are viewed positively by other advertisers such as Neiman Marcus, the newspaper said, but are further raising privacy concerns.


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