If you watched much TV over the holidays, you likely saw the anthemic spot promoting Chevrolet Canada’s 2019 line of Silverado pick-up trucks.
It contains lots of beauty shots of Silverado trucks doing truck things—hauling trailers and other heavy loads, all set against a rugged landscape of mountains and forests.
What’s really notable is the narration. “We haven’t come this far by accident… we made it here because of our perseverance, our strength, our determination, our courage.” The ad debuted almost one month to the day after Chevrolet’s parent company, GM, announced plans to close its manufacturing plant in Oshawa, Ont. as part of a major North American restructuring.
In advertising, context can significantly change meaning. For many people, GM’s decision to close the Oshawa plant will fundamentally alter how they view that commercial now, versus how it might have been perceived when it was first written.
What was intended as a celebration of the shared values of GM and working class truck buyers from coast to coast surely rang hollow for some. Who exactly is the “we” the narrator talks about?
Most interesting from a marketing perspective might be the chronology: The ad would have been written, shot and edited months ago, and booked for this holiday season. But when did GM decide it was closing Oshawa? When did marketing find out? Was there any discussion about not running this ad? Or at least change the voiceover to focus more on the trucks? They should have had time to do that.
The Message reached out to GM for comment on the campaign. Among the questions we posed: Was the narrative crafted before the decision was made to close the Oshawa plant, and is there any expectation within the company that the campaign might help ameliorate some of the negative sentiment around GM in the wake of the plant closure?
Our questions generated pro forma responses about the Silverado’s “unique trim levels,” “refined comfort” and “rugged functionality” and GM’s longstanding association with Hockey Canada.
GM maintains it is not turning its back on Canada. In a recent announcement entitled “The Facts Around GM’s Transformation and Commitment to Canada,” the company stated that it is committed to Canada and “we are not going anywhere.”
But the union representing GM workers is out now with a commercial that feels like a direct response to GM’s love letter to Canada. The title of the ad, which was posted just a few days ago, speaks for itself: “Hey GM, you want to sell here. Build here.”
—Chris Powell and David Brown