Chevy campaign goes for emotion

Beloved local star acts as spokeswomanWhile the consumer demographics of the compact truck market are consistent across the country, General Motors of Canada has found that uniformity does not transfer to the marketing campaigns for the product in Quebec and the...

Beloved local star acts as spokeswoman

While the consumer demographics of the compact truck market are consistent across the country, General Motors of Canada has found that uniformity does not transfer to the marketing campaigns for the product in Quebec and the rest of Canada.

Different balance

Andre Gingras, General Motors’ Quebec marketing manager, says it is the balance between emotional and rational reasons to buy that distinguishes French-language advertising from that in English Canada.

‘We also like to make Quebec advertising more entertaining because we’ve found through past research and testing of concepts from the u.s. or English Canada that the degree of involvement in the commercial is higher, the retention is higher,’ Gingras says.

Can’t be too rational

‘We find that even though they’re very good product commercials, the sponsor identification is lower if it’s a commercial that’s too rational,’ he says.

For example, Gingras says English advertising for the introduction of the redesigned 1994 Chevrolet Series S compact is adapted from the u.s. campaign and takes a much more rational approach by focussing on the benefits and quality of the product.

The made-in-Quebec creative uses emotion as the key trigger.

Gingras says although demographics for Chevrolet’s commercial trucks vary from market to market, compact pickups such as the new Series S have two types of buyers that are consistent for English and French Canada.

One, the well-educated white-collar group, is part of the crossover market.

White-collar sector

It is a car-buying group that chooses a pickup to fill the needs of a car and the requirement for a vehicle for other aspects of lifestyle such as outdoor recreation and sports.

Blue-collar buyers are drawn to the pickup for its durability, and because a compact truck is a utility vehicle that is not a gas guzzler.

The target market for Chevy trucks takes in a broad age group, 25-54, although Gingras says white-collar buyers tend to be in the younger 25-34 segment, while blue-collar customers fall into the broader category.

Males are predominantly buyers of compact trucks, with females making up roughly 12% to 18% of the market.

Gingras says he expects the female customer for the Series S to be steady at around 15%.


Still, with so many similarities in the compact pickup market, Gingras says adapting English creative is not successful in Quebec even if copy and voiceover are translated into French because the consumer will not be able to identify with the visual approach.

‘The key factor is finding a way for Quebecers to identify themselves with the commercial – not in a way that says, `Yes, this is really me,’ but as seeing the relation between themselves and the people they see in the commercials,’ he says.

‘Quebec has nourished – in everything political and social – the thought [that] we’re different from the rest of North America.

‘This is a drawback when we’re using a North American approach. If we say this is the best-selling car in North America, unfortunately, in the province of Quebec, it doesn’t mean anything.

What sells

‘They think what sells best here doesn’t always sell somewhere else, and vice-versa.’

The campaign for Chevy Series S pickups appeals to Quebecers with humor and emotion by using a celebrity – beloved personality Rose Ouellette.

Ouellette, also known as La Poune, is a 90-year-old comedian who has been in the entertainment business in Quebec for 75 years.

Gingras says La Poune is an untranslatable funny nickname that would be used like ‘sweetie,’ ‘cutie’ or ‘poopsie’ in English.

Gingras likens Quebecers’ affection for her to that felt by other North Americans for celebrities such as veteran comedian George Burns.

Emotional appeal

He says, La Poune ‘appeals to the emotional side.

‘She has the advantage of cutting across the different target markets quite easily, in contrast to English Chevy truck commercials with [u.s. rock star] Bob Seger singing Like A Rock, which is only known within one small segment of the population,’ Gingras says.

‘Rose Ouellette is known by 90%,’ he says. ‘She also has the benefit of reinforcing Chevy truck’s positioning because she also lasts a long time, which is our theme-line.’

La Poune appears on billboards along with Quebec campaign slogans, ‘Fait pour Durer’ (‘Built to Last’) and ‘Plus durable que La Poune’ (‘More durable than La Poune.’)

She is also featured in the magazine ads and in a new 30-second tv commercial that airs through to mid-December.


‘The last five seconds of the commercial, which is a parody of what we would have done 15 years ago, we think makes the difference between an average commercial and one that’s going to have an extremely high retention level,’ Gingras says.

The commercial pokes fun at ‘cheesecake’ advertising previously used to sell cars and trucks.

It opens with a mystery lady bedecked in a red sequined dress sitting atop the hood of the new Chevy S compact, a four-seater with extended cab.

Her entourage is busy with her makeup and wardrobe. The director explains the next shot and we cut to a closeup of the truck’s interior.

The camera begins a slow ascent of the sequined dress, interspersed with cuts of the truck, until we reach La Poune, who says, ‘Ce pickup la, y’est encore plus durable que moi.’ (‘That pickup there, it’s more durable than me.’)

Like the English campaign, the commercial focusses on the durability of the truck but, most importantly, what makes it unique for the Quebec market is the viewers’ association with La Poune and appreciation for the humor in the pay-off shot at the end.

Chevy has been using advertising created especially for the Quebec market since hiring Cossette Communication-Marketing two years ago to handle all advertising for General Motors in Quebec.

Cossette directs the truck division portion of the account from its Quebec City office and automobiles from Montreal.

Gingras credits separate campaigns for the Quebec market for helping the company increase its market share in the province.

‘I can’t attribute only that to the increase,’ he says. ‘It’s unfair to say that in two years you’re able to reposition a brand just because you’ve tailored all your advertising to one market.

‘We get the feeling through the testing we do that we’re moving in the right direction and the perception of the brand seems to be getting better, more in line with where we’d like it to be.

geo is the only new General Motors brand that has been launched since the company has been doing separate Quebec campaigns.

Tested differently

Gingras says geo is doing well in Quebec and Ontario, but when the Ontario advertising was tested in Quebec, it did not work.

Likewise the successful Quebec campaign was not considered appropriate for television when tested in Ontario.

‘Look at television programming, it’s different,’ Gingras says. ‘We often use the example of the Quebec tv series He Shoots. He Scores, which was produced in both languages and shown on the CBC English and French networks.

‘The English version was highly censored,’ he says. ‘Language and sexually explicit scenes that were permitted to be shown by cbc in Quebec were changed for airing in the rest of Canada.

‘It’s a fact that what is acceptable here is not necessarily acceptable in Ontario, and, because of that, when we tested the commercials, we see the difference in what is perceived to be appropriate for Quebec, versus the rest of Canada.’

To further illustrate his point, Gingras says that in past advertising for Buick, the line ‘Re-discover America,’ which originated in the u.s. campaign, was used in Quebec but not in English Canada.

He explains that in Quebec ‘America’ is perceived to mean North America, while in the rest of Canada, it is definitely associated with the u.s.