GM edits out robot suicide

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070222/BUSINESS01/70222042/1014/BUSINESS01
By BARBARA WIELAND
LANSING STAFF WRITER
The star of a controversial General Motors Corp. ad -- a little yellow
robot who dreamed of suicide after being laid off -- is getting another shot at fame in a retooled version of the commercial.
Now, instead of jumping off a bridge, the robot tries out entry-level jobs stocking shelves and parking cars and even has bad dreams of cars in the scrap yard before waking up.
"I think people wish to be able to trust (companies) more easily," said Dave Regan, an advertising expert at Michigan State University.
"By doing this, GM drove the point home that it listens to its critics."
The remake, which can be seen on GM's Web site and may be aired during special TV broadcasts such as award shows, comes on the heels of its Super Bowl debut earlier this month. GM edited out the bridge jump after meeting with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
The Eric Carmen song "All By Myself" continues to serve as a backdrop.
The automaker said the original ad, filmed in part at the Lansing, Mich., Grand River assembly plant where Cadillacs are built, intended to show that GM workers are obsessed with quality.
The Super Bowl ad was ranked the seventh best on the MSNBC.com poll, and ranked 18th out of 57 ads on the USA TODAY Ad Meter list of Super Bowl ads. It reportedly cost GM more than $5 million to air the ad.
Regan, an MSU instructor, said changing the ad could be an important step in the automaker's goal of improving people's perception of GM quality.
In recent years, GM has won several awards for the quality of its cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles. This year, the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Silverado won the 2007 North American Car and Truck of the Year awards at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
But GM executives are struggling to find a way to change the perception among many car buyers that the quality of foreign makes is better.
GM began tackling that problem with its 100,000-mile, five-year warranty and the accompanying levitating cars ad that debuted in late 2006. The robot ad was the next step in the campaign, GM spokeswoman Ryndee Carney said.
"We know it will take a long time for perceptions to change. Perceptions lag reality," she said.
GM's vice president of marketing and advertising, Mike Jackson, said if GM can persuade car shoppers to give the Detroit-based automaker a try, the products are good enough to convince shoppers to buy.
"We truly understand that if we build the best-looking, hottest products that we can, back them with the quality that consumers expect and couple that with the GM 100,000-mile warranty, we have a real opportunity to increase our sales," he said.
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