During the summer and autumn months of 1981, millions of Americans got to meet executives of some of the nation's largest leasing and rental firms, thanks to network television commercials featuring these industry leaders. However, the commercials were not for their individual companies, they were part of a General Motors advertising campaign aimed at instilling confidence in the buying public based on the premise that these lessors bought primarily GM vehicles and relied on these cars for their corporate health.
The program has been branded a success, and a spokesperson for the GM advertising agency, D'Arcy-Mac-Manus and Masius, says, "Results of research (conducted through consumer-testing methods) showed the commercials had a positive effect on consumers in terms of both attitude toward GM and consideration of GM products."
The agency realized that these companies earn their business incomes from the profitable operation of cars and trucks, and felt the executives from these companies would make credible spokespeople for GM products, since they depend primarily on GM products.
The theme that emerged from the compaign was "People Who Know Cars". This offered what the agency and the company felt would be a viable advertising platform which, if communicated correctly, could serve to enhance the publicly perceived quality, dependability and acceptance of GM products.
In executing the campaign, meetings were held with top management executives of National Car Rental (and their leasing subsidiary, Lend Lease), Avis Rent A Car, Peterson, Howell and Heather Group and Gelco Fleet and Management Services Company. During these meetings, the concept of the campaign was discussed and executive participation was requested. There agreeing to appearing in the commercials included Bemiss Rolfs, president of National, Sheldon Peterson, vice president of fleet and maintenance for sales for Lend Lease. James Calvano, former president of Avis and vice president and general manager of Avis Car Leasing Edgar Dame also consented to appear. From PHH, Jerome Geckle, chairman, and Stan Chason, president of Gelco Fleet and Management Services, also agreed to participate.
The Avis and National ads began in July during the nightly network newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC. The PHH and Gelco testimonials on behalf of GM appeared through September, October and November, running during national football games on ABC as well as the network newscasts.
Commercials followed one of two formats. Either the spokesman would deliver a message about GM vehicles appropriate to his company's experience, or the spokesman would be presented as a "car buying expert" who prefers GM cars, emphasizing the fact that new car buyers replace their GM cars with GM vehicles some 70 percent of the time, a higher percentage enjoyed by any other major manufacturer.