Jan 3, 2009

Chrysler's 'Thank You' Ads: Not the Best Idea

Readers of the nation's major newspapers -- those still reading paper, anyway -- by now have seen splashy full-page ads from Chrysler LLC thanking "America" for its bailout-investment in the company.

No harm in being contrite, but just like winging into Washington, D.C., on a trio of exec jets to demonstrate their dire financial straits, the "Thank You, America" ad isn't going to go down as one of Detroit, Inc.'s more wizened PR stunts.

Chrysler's $200,000-a-pop Hallmark moments are being called out in all quarters as mindless and myopic. Fox News criticized not only the "spend" itself but the symbolic cluelessness of it all. If Chrysler had a brain, it could have done a "viral" Web campaign for practically no cost, and appeared all the more intelligent and resourceful for doing so.

And, as one advertising-world reaction rightly noted, Chrysler's profligate ads are likely to be construed as proof the car companies simply can't figure out how to stop spending money -- particularly for inanities such as extravagant ads to express gratitude for the federal loans necessary to keep them from going bankrupt.

Even one of Detroit's hometown newspapers, the Detroit News -- which itself would have been happy to cash a taxpayer-funded Chrysler check for a piece of the thank-you business that went to the Wall Street Journal and USA Today -- busted Chrysler's chops:

"Although [the Detroit News] applauds spending money for any newspaper ads, we need to point out that most of the Americans you're thanking still don't think carmakers should get any taxpayer-backed bailout loans. Those folks may get even more cheesed-off seeing you write six-figure checks for their money to buy ads thanking them for something they don't think you deserve and didn't want to give you in the first place."