ZipCar Hires Campbell-Ewald as New Agency of Record

Mini Cooper Zipcar

Zipcar, the Boston-based automobile sharing service, has selected Detroit-based advertising agency Campbell Ewald as its new agency to handle its brand strategy and act as its creative partner. The agency was awarded the account after a competitive review.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Zipcar during such an exciting time in the company’s growth,” said Barbara Yolles, CMO of Campbell Ewald in a statement. “Zipcar is such a hot brand, truly redefining the way people think about mobility. We look forward to making an impact by helping them achieve their global business goals through brand strategy and creative efforts.”

Zipcar has been providing a process for sharing cars, “cars on demand,” for ten years and generated sales of $279 million for 2012. Avis rent-a-car recently announced that it will acquire all of Zipcar.

 


Super Bowl 47 Ads: A little WOW, a lot of Meh…

Super Bowl 47 was a thrilling spectacle with so many storylines. The Harbaugh brothers coaching against each other for the first time in a Super Bowl; Ray Lewis playing in the last game of his career; Colin Kaepernick, the young new dynamic quarterback leading his team to the biggest game, and, Joe Flacco, the long-suffering starting quarterback for the Ravens, playing in the final year of his contract with essentially no safety net and having no idea what type of long-term deal the Ravens will offer him to remain as their quarterback.

Each Super Bowl brings with it the anticipation of what creative, funny, provocative commercials will be aired and which would be the most memorable or deemed, the “best.”

So, overall, this year’s crop of ads were just okay, a few to remember, but far too many that didn’t really leave an impact. So, shown below are by thoughts on a few of the ads that ran in yesterday’s game:

The Good Ones

Dodge Ram Truck: ‘The Farmer” – Utilizing a classic narration by the legendary radio personality Paul Harvey talking about what makes a farmer, this ad blended very well with the ethos of the product. While the narration was happening, you saw images of different people and things – but no product shots. Only at the very end was there a shot of a Ram pickup as the narration comes to a close. The ad really made the connection between product and customer persona. Very well done.

Jeep: “Whole Again” –Chrysler Group LLC and the folks at Jeep took an understated approach to promoting the brand and its products. Using a calm, steady voice-over by Oprah Winfrey, the spot manages to be emotional while cebebrating the characteristics that make America a wonderful place. It recognizes the role of the individual in making things better. This was a nice change of pace from the typical bombastic advertisements that normally clutter Super Bowl ad space. Nice job.

Volkswagen: “Get Happy” – VW has always been somewhat of a quirky brand, going all the way back to the original Beetle in the 50s and continuing up to today. But in today’s market, VW’s products are not quirky, but their ads usually are. And, they’re usually pretty good. This spot, “Get Happy”, is another good one that uses an actor with a spot on Jamaican accent to encourage everyone to have a happy attitude and his attitude eventually rubs off onto everyone he comes into contact with. They eventually travel in a VW vehicle and by the time they come back to the office, everyone is speaking in a Jamaican accent and are happy. There has been some controversy about this spot because the guy with the accent (and nearly everyone else) is white. I think that disconnect (white guy with a Jamaican accent) is what makes the ad totally funny.

Audi: “Prom (Worth It)” – Audi has had some very good ads that are really beginning to set it apart from its German luxury competitors. This spot is nice in how it brightens the day of a young man who is going to the prom – but without a date. So, his dad throws him the keys to the Audi A8. Infused with new confidence as he drives to his prom, he parks in the principal’s spot, enters the prom and goes right up to the most popular girl in school and kisses her square on the lips. The presumed boyfriend then comes after the Audi guy, and we see the results by the black eye he has as he’s driving home, but the young lady he approached is in the car with him. Cute.

NFL Network: “Sandcastle” – Deion Sanders has always maintained that he could still compete in the NFL despite being retired for a number of years. This spot takes that sentiment further as Deion adopts an alter ego, “Leon Sandcastle” and promptly blows away other player prospects at the NFL combine and gets himself redrafted as a #1 draft pick. NFL commish Roger Goddell is in on the gag by presenting him with his team jersey at the draft and asking, “Have we met before? You seem familiar.” To a football junkie like myself, this was funny.

Tide: “Miracle Stain” – This is just flat out funny. A guy who is a 49ers fan spills ketchup on his 49ers jersey that looks like Joe Montana, the legendary 49ers quarterback. He sees the stain as a divine sign that San Francisco will win the Super Bowl. Word spreads locally, regionally and then everywhere about the divine stain, and people are lined up for miles to see it. He has the jersey as a framed shrine on his wall – until its no longer there. Turns out, his wife (who just so happens to be a Ravens fan and wears a Ravens jersey) washed the jersey (with Tide of course)! Her cheeky, “Go Ravens” at the very end was classic.

The Not So Good

Lincoln – This spot was apparently the first spot by the Lincoln brand to begin its reintroduction to the marketplace and it uses an (odd) combination of Jimmy Fallon and Twitter to promote the brand. I thought the spot was bland and uninspiring. If Lincoln gets an overwhelming amount of traffic from this, I’ll be surprised.

Go Daddy: “Perfect Match” – Go Daddy has made a name for itself by launching racy, provocative ads (usually sexually charged) during the Super Bowl. Anna Nicole Smith, Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels have all played a role in their blend of envelope-stretching raunch. This year, the ad is still provocative, but there’s no implied nudity. Just an attempt to convey the mix of sexy and smarts as represented by supermodel Bar Rafaeli as the sexy, and “Walter”, a computer geek-looking young man who represents the smart. They kiss. For a really long time. It’s a wet, sloppy, noisy kiss between sexy and smart. The camera is up close as they do this. It’s squeamish and the sound effects of the sloppiness of it make it so much worse. At least Walter looks happy after it’s over.

Automakers represented strong in this year’s crop of ads and generally put forth good ads to represent their products. Although, I don’t recall seeing any ads representing GM products this year. While this list shows the good and not so good, there were a lot of ads in between that were just… forgettable. Ads that they could have debuted in a different venue (for a lot less money) and perhaps gotten more pop.

Oh well, there’s always next year…


The Pentastar Phoenix Rises

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defying nearly insurmountable odds and benefitting from a well-timed alliance with its Italian partner, Fiat, Chrysler has clearly escaped from itsdarkest days and is headed towards a brighter future with the reporting of its 2012 full year financial results.

The company reported net income of $1.7 billion for 2012, which is up nearly 900 percent versus the $183 million reported for 2011.

The company seems to have rediscovered its soul, after being bled dry of anything of value by the crew from Daimler and run into the ditch by the financial gumdrops from Cerebus. The Daimler merger was a complete disaster from the very first day, and if you were paying attention, you could see that its German management overseers don’t operate on instinct. As such, the company was forced to churn out awkward looking products that resonated with, well… nobody. The Chrysler 300 was the only true product smash the company delivered during that time.

The entire Cerebus era was a disaster. Period.

By the time Fiat took control, the Chrysler that everyone had known was like a runaway teen who gets off the bus in a big city and is befriended by what she thinks is a nice guy who actually turns her out and then kicks her back onto the street once she can’t produce for him the way he wants. The teen is hoping that this new person extending a helping hand is sincere and actually wants to help.

This time it worked out. Chrysler is back.

The products have that Chrysler swagger; that daring, edgy presence that give the vehicles a personality and gives the consumers a reason to root for the company to succeed – again.

The financial results seem to point towards the company regaining its health and looking towards a brighter future. Marketshare is up, cash flow is strong and profitability is consistent. All the elements are in place that refocus attention on the products, not on the day-to-day deathwatch of the company. That’s a nice change.

Here are a few more financial highlights the company reported:

  • Chrysler Group LLC’s full-year 2012 net income improved more than eight-fold to $1.7 billion, from $183 million a year ago
  • Net revenue for the year was $65.8 billion, up 20 percent from $55.0 billion a year ago; fourth-quarter revenue was up 13 percent to $17.2 billion
  • Modified Operating Profit improved to $2.9 billion for the year, up 47 percent from the prior year; fourth-quarter Modified Operating Profit was up 40 percent to $711 million
  • Cash at year’s end was $11.6 billion compared with $9.6 billion a year ago and $11.9 billion at Sept. 30, 2012; Free Cash Flow for the year was $2.2 billion compared with $1.9 billion a year ago
  • Net Industrial Debt was $1.0 billion at Dec. 31, 2012, an improvement of $1.9 billion from a year ago
  • Worldwide vehicle shipments were 2.4 million for the year, up 20 percent from 2.0 million a year ago; fourth-quarter shipments were 613,000
  • Worldwide vehicle sales for the full year 2012 totaled 2.2 million, up 18 percent from a year ago; fourth-quarter sales were 533,000

Ford Continues to Impress With Strong 4Q and Full-year Results

Ford continues its forward momentum with the reporting of its financial results today. Pre-tax profit of $8 billion on increased revenue in the North

Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

American market has really helped the company sustain its momentum that began when Alan Mullaly took the CEO helm in 2006.

The company has come a very long way from when it mortgaged everything it had – its iconic logo, its buildings, trademarks and anything else of value – to build a cash reserve that sustained it through the great recession and was a key factor in helping it to avoid taking any financial assistance from the government. Yet, the company received many of the same financial advantages as Chrysler and GM who did receive funding from the Bush and Obama administrations.

The product lineup from Ford is completely different and improved from what it was when Mullaly came on board. The Ford Five Hundred? Yawn. The Ford Freestyle? Huh? The Ford Escape? Bor-ring. Ford products had no design identity, no passion and no zip.

But Mullaly made some bold moves, like bringing back the Taurus name and putting some muscle into the design of the vehicle – and all Ford vehicles – so that now, when you see a Ford vehicle, it has a distinctive identity and is light years away from just 5 years ago.

Those moves by Mullaly and his executive leadership team – which was overhauled during the early days of his tenure – are paying huge dividends (literally and figuratively), and the financial results bore that out.

Highlights from the earnings report are shown below:

 

  • Strong full year pre-tax profit was $8 billion, or $1.41 per share, a decrease of $797 million from a year ago
  • Full year net income was $5.7 billion, or $1.42 per share; excluding impact of 2011 changes in valuation allowance against deferred tax assets, full year 2012 net income was $307 million lower than 2011
  • Positive Automotive operating-related cash flow was $3.4 billion for the full year and $1 billion for the fourth quarter — the 11th consecutive quarter of positive performance. Ford ended 2012 with Automotive gross cash of $24.3 billion, exceeding debt by $10 billion, and a strong liquidity position of $34.5 billion, an increase of $2.1 billion over 2011
  • Ford had its highest fourth quarter pre-tax profit in more than a decade — when trucks and SUVs were a more significant portion of the U.S. product mix — at $1.7 billion, or $0.31 per share, an increase of $577 million from fourth quarter 2011. Ford has now posted a pre-tax operating profit for 14 consecutive quarters
  • Total company fourth quarter net income was $1.6 billion, or $0.40 per share; excluding impact of 2011 changes in valuation allowance against deferred tax assets, fourth quarter net income was $565 million higher than 2011
  • Total Automotive full-year pre-tax profit of $6.3 billion was driven by Ford North America results, which set fourth quarter and full year records for pre-tax profit and operating margin since Ford began reflecting the region as a separate business unit in 2000. For the full year, Ford North America’s pre-tax profit was $8.3 billion with an operating margin of 10.4 percent
  • Ford Credit reported continued solid performance with a full year pre-tax profit of $1.7 billion
  • For 2013 outlook, Ford expects another strong year, with Total Company operating profit to be about equal to 2012, Automotive operating margin to be about equal to or lower than 2012, and Automotive operating-related cash flow to be higher than 2012

Kelly Blue Book Highlights Residual Values

A key component of vehicle ownership is a concept known as residual value. Residual value is knowing how much your vehicle will be worth after a set number of years of ownership. Residual value is a concern primarily of people who purchase new vehicles and want to have an idea of what the vehicle will be worth in the future.

This report published by Kelly Blue Book highlights the residual value of nearly every new vehicle in the marketplace and identified those vehicles and brands that stand out as having a higher than average residual value than comparable vehicles or brands.

There are some surprises and a lot of non-surprises. The Jeep Wrangler had the highest residual value of any vehicle in the study, retaining 55% of its value after 5 years. Once Chrysler moved the Wrangler to a larger platform a few years ago, popularity for the vehicle soared. The larger platform (and the addition of a 4-door version) made the vehicle more attractive to buyers and helped to boost the residual value.

The brand with the highest residual value was Toyota. Duh. No surprise there. Toyota has been a brand with high residual value for a long time, built on their consistent quality and popularity among vehicle buyers.

The report breaks down the multiple brands, vehicles and nameplates and the residual value for most vehicles in the marketplace.


Chrysler Profits Swing $300 Million On Strong Product Sales

Chrysler Reported its 3rd quarter earnings and experienced a nearly $300 million positive swing as the company reports net income of $212 million.

In the third quarter of 2011, net revenue was $13.1 billion, a 19 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010, driven by increased demand for Chrysler Group’s 16 all-new or significantly refreshed cars and trucks.

The Company reported a Modified Operating Profit of $483 million for the quarter, or 3.7 percent of net revenue, up from $239 million, or 2.2 percent of net revenue, in 2010. Modified Operating Profit benefited from increased sales volume and improved pricing and mix, partially offset by increased advertising and industrial costs.

“In the third quarter, Chrysler Group achieved increased sales and positive financial results, totally in line with the plan we laid out in November 2009. And in October, together with the United Auto Workers, we crafted a solid four-year contract that will support us in our growth plans and significantly reward our employees for their contribution to the revival of Chrysler,” said Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Chrysler Group LLC. “This house continues to be fully focused on financial performance and making outstanding cars and trucks by fully leveraging its alliance with Fiat.”

It is clear that the alliance with Fiat has worked well and exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations. The company is introducing new vehicles with much improved interiors and exterior styling that unmistakably says, “Chrysler.”

The company has raised its financial performance projections for the full year, based upon the 24 percent rise in year-to-date sales compared to last year.

It seems as if Fiat is using the Chrysler dealer network to launch the Fiat line of vehicles across the country, and using the Fiat dealer network in Europe to stimulate Chrysler vehicle sales internationally. Those international sales have been key in helping Chrysler improve its performance.

The darkest clouds seem to have passed for Chrysler. If the company can continue to execute its product launches effectively (16 products launched so far), and improve the quality as shown by J.D. Power and Consumers Reports, they will have truly turned the corner and be on their way to a much brighter future.


We’ve Just Seen the End of IndyCar Racing

It’s not often that we get to witness history as its being made. I believe we’ve been witness to history being made with the tragic 15-car accident that claimed the life of 2-time Indianapolis 500 champion, Dan Wheldon.

I was stunned to learn of the tragic death of Dan Wheldon during Sunday’s race in Las Vegas. It was the last race of the IndyCar series for 2011 and the race would have determined the series champion, with Dario Franchitti in the lead to get the title.

It appears that the IndyCar organization was attempting to inject some excitement into the race by encouraging side-by-side racing to give the fans something to cheer about during this last race of the season.

So, the organization changed the rules a bit to allow the cars to race 3 or 4 wide at speeds up to 225 miles per hour. That is an incredible challenge to the laws of physics. I watch a lot of NASCAR and when the cars get up to about 190 m.p.h. and the cars are 3 or 4-wide into a turn, bad things happen – frequently. There is just too much turbulence rushing between the cars, over the cars, or behind the cars and that disrupts the handling and makes them very unstable.

The open wheel IndyCar vehicles are even more sensitive. They depend so much more on stable airflow creating massive downforce, keeping the car pinned to the ground as it heads into turns at over 200 mp.h. Why would anyone think that allowing open wheel racecars to race 3 or 4 wide at incredibly high speeds is a good idea?

Tragically, it wasn’t.

The world of motorsports lost a really great driver and competitor on Sunday. Although Wheldon didn’t have full-time ride and was looking to get one, he just wanted to compete and keep showcasing his skills, probably thinking that eventually he would again find a full-time team and sponsor.

He was personable. Publicly reported stories spoke of how funny he was as a person. Just looking at him, it was clear that he was also very telegenic, and, combined with his English accent, gave great TV interviews.

For a time after he won his first Indianapolis 500 it appeared as if Wheldon could be the face of IndyCar and play the role of superstar for the organization. But, then came Danica fever. Danica Patrick absolutely dominated the attention for the IndyCar series, and the league quickly hung its marketing had on her, despite the small fact that she won only (drum roll please)… one race. A rain shortened race in Japan that most folks in the U.S. never saw.

Meanwhile, Wheldon won 2 Indy 500 races and other races in the IndyCar series. Media attention was so scarce for him at times that he took to wearing a t-shirt that said “I actually WON the Indy 500” as a funny yet poignant protest against the media love-fest that had set in for Danica Patrick. Yet Wheldon struggled to find a full-time ride as a 2-time champion (and died in pursuit of that full-time ride), while Danica rides her fame (and 1 win) to a full-time NASCAR gig, ditching IndyCar.

Where does IndyCar go from here? The series is in trouble. It was in trouble before this happened; this tragic accident timed with Danica’s announced departure just made a bad situation worse.

Attendance looked anemic. I’m guessing that television ratings were similar. Beginning with the open war between CART and IRL several years ago, the sport of American open wheel racing has never recovered, and the mending of fences with the creation of IndyCar has not improved that situation.

Wheldon’s death at the hands of what seems to have been an unnecessary “goosing” of competitive rules to create “excitement” for the fans may have just ended the future of IndyCar as a competitive sport.

The series has no recognizable superstar, no real unique product offering, and now, questionable decision-making by its leadership in an effort to add some pizzazz to the sport.

If IndyCar survives after this it will be a miracle. And, by the time they are able to again offer some form of competitive racing, no one will be around to pay attention.

R.I.P. Dan Wheldon.


Ford & UAW Reach New Agreement

      • Ford commits to add 12,000 hourly jobs in its U.S. manufacturing facilities by 2015, including in-sourcing from Mexico, China and Japan; this is 5,750 hourly jobs more than the previously announced 7,000 U.S. positions to be added by year-end 2012
      • Ford pledges to invest $16 billion in the U.S. – including $6.2 billion for U.S. plants – to design, engineer and produce more new and upgraded vehicles and components by 2015
      • Ford says the agreement is fair to its employees and that it improves the company’s competitiveness in the U.S.
      • The new jobs and investment commitments in the UAW-Ford tentative agreement are contingent upon ratification of the agreement by the UAW membership

Ford Motor Company and the United Auto Workers union (UAW) have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year labor contract covering approximately 41,000 UAW-represented employees in the United States.

The agreement – which is subject to ratification by UAW members – calls for 12,000 hourly jobs to be added in Ford’s U.S. manufacturing facilities through the term of the contract in 2015.

The new jobs commitment includes additional in-sourcing from Mexico, China and Japan, and is nearly double the company’s previous commitment to add jobs in the U.S.

The agreement includes $16 billion in U.S. investments – including $6.2 billion for Ford plants in the U.S. – all to design, engineer and produce more new and upgraded vehicles and components by 2015.

“We are pleased that, by working together with the UAW, we reached a deal that is fair to our employees and that improves Ford’s competitiveness in the U.S.,” said John Fleming, Ford’s executive vice president of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. “This agreement allows us to make even more progress on our One Ford plan and our focus on the great products, stronger business and better world that will deliver continued profitable growth for all.”

The UAW will share details of the agreement with its local leaders and members in the coming days as part of the ratification process. Ford will discuss more specifics once the agreement becomes final.

 

 


September Sales Stay Strong – for Most

Auto sales in September continued to show strength compared to year-ago totals. The traditional Big 3 companies, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler reported positive sales gains, with Chrysler leading the way with a 27% increase year-over-year. General Motors sold over 200,000 units in September and reported an increase of nearly 20%, while Ford reported a more modest increase of 9%, selling 174,860 units.

Some Japanese manufactures are still feeling the effects from the tsunami that rocked their country this year. The severe weather there disrupted the supply chain that provides parts and logistics for them and that has hampered sales as some vehicles have had problems getting parts to fill vehicle orders. Toyota sales are down 17.5%, while Honda reported a decline in sales of 8%. Some smaller Japanese manufacturers were less affected by the supply chain disruption and reported higher sales, with Mazda leading that group with a 37.4% sales increase and Nissan sales improving 25.3%.

Korean manufacturers, lead by Hyundai, continue to make significant progress in the American auto market. Hyundai sales rose nearly 12% to 52,051, while Kia sales increased 18.4% to 35,609 units.

Saab continues to struggle in the U.S. market, its sales declining 62% and only selling 429 units. Saab’s future continues to remain cloudy as the company struggles to find a buyer for itself or find a viable path to sustainability.

While sales have remained fairly strong and steady for most automakers, each has done a very good job hiding how much incentives are driving sales. In the past, cash rebate amounts were a very prominent selling feature for vehicles, despite that tactic’s profit-erosion ability. Cash rebates are touted much less, but are still a vital component to new car sales. Shop around to determine the best deal for your budget.

Some OEMs will be launching new models this fall, although that cycle has faded as automakers release new models when they’re ready and at a timeframe that presents the least amount of competition from other automakers.

We’ll see how sales look for October in early November.


The One Automotive Conference You Should Attend

The one conference you should be attending this year is the 12th Annual RainbowPUSH Global Automotive & Energy Summit. The conference will be held at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Detroit.

A lot of conferences promise a lot and deliver very little. They are overpriced and often you don’t leave with anything other than a new canvas bag or knapsack with someone else’s logos all over it. Who needs another one of those?

The Global Automotive Summit focuses on business issues. In fact, this conference is the ONLY conference that tackles business issues in the automotive industry that directly affect people of color in the industry.

And, no, you don’t have to only be a person of color to attend. Everyone can learn something from this conference.

For 12 years, the RainbowPUSH organization has brought together the leading thinkers, entrepreneurs, government leaders and media personnel to identify and address the most pressing topics affecting the industry.

The theme of this year’s conference is “One Set of Rules: Leveling The Playing Field”.

One area that has, arguably, the most uneven playing field is advertising spending by automotive companies. This year, the conference will address the lack of automotive advertising spending with minority ad agencies, along with the influence of the hip-hop generation on consumer trends and its effect on the automotive industry.

The automotive industry spent $13 billion on advertising in 2010, according to Advertising Age. Very little of that $13 billion was spent with minority advertising agencies. That, in turn leads to less money being spent with minority media companies (newspapers, radio, TV stations). That trickle down effect has a negative impact on the owners of minority companies connected to advertising spending.

This year’s Global Automotive Summit will directly address this on-going problem with the Advertising & Marketing Panel with the Chief Marketing Officers of the largest advertising spenders in the automotive industry. Joel Ewanick of General Motors, Jim Farley of Ford and Tim Mahoney of Volkswagen of America will discuss how they will address leveling the playing field of advertising spending as relates to customer demographic representation.

The folks from R.L. Polk will also be in attendance to share their unique insight on what sales data says about who’s buying what, and what influences those purchases. R.L. Polk is a data-rich organization that studies the trends and results of consumer purchases. What they discover on a regular basis is huge. Data don’t lie, folks.

These are serious issues. The livelihood of a significant number of minority media owners hangs in the balance. The owners of minority media are often the only source of news that many residents receive, and those loyal readers and listeners depend on that news outlet to tell them what’s going on in the world from their perspective.

When large multi-national companies like GM, VW, Ford and others concentrate their ad spending with majority-owned firms (who are often subsidiaries of much larger advertising holding companies) and minimize, segregate or eliminate spending with minority-owned firms the ripple effect of unintended consequences is huge.

So, for 12 years, RainbowPUSH has been holding this conference to bring light to issues like advertising spending, the influence of hip-hop culture and the rapidly growing green sector within the industry. You should plan to attend this conference.

Mark your calendar for October 5-6, 2011 at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Detroit. This conference is affordable ($200), informative and essential. Things get done at the Global Automotive & Energy Summit; more than can be said for many other conferences that you’re spending a lot more money to attend.

Make the investment and learn something new.