Chevy Turns to Pictures to Celebrate a Centennial
By Stuart Elliot on October 19, 2011, 3:59 PM
The Chevrolet division of General Motors is turning to television to mark its 100th anniversary with a commercial that is to be introduced on Wednesday night during the first game of the 2011 World Series on Fox Broadcasting.
The commercial, titled "Then and Now," is the most recent element in a multimedia commemoration of the centennial of Chevrolet. The brand was introduced in 1911 and acquired by G.M. in 1918.
The commercial, by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, part of the Omnicom Group, is centered on vintage photographs of vintage Chevrolets, which are held up to the camera at the same locations as they appear today.
While the photos are displayed, the soundtrack plays Ray Charles performing a live version of "America the Beautiful."
In one instance, the car that is in the photo - a Chevy circa the late 1940s - appears to be parked where it was in the photo. In other instances, contemporary Chevrolets appear where their old-time counterparts once drove or were parked.
The commercial ends with a photo of a family with a Chevy from the mid-1950s parked in a driveway. When the photo is lowered, a family is with a new Chevy Volt in the same driveway.
At the end, the actor Tim Allen, who is the voice-over announcer in Chevy commercials, says: "For the first hundred years, and for generations to come. Thank you for making us a part of your life."
On screen is superimposed the current Chevy slogan, "Chevy runs deep" and the words "since 1911."
The commercial, which will appear throughout the World Series as well as during other TV programming, complements two online campaigns that Chevrolet has already begun.
One, also by Goodby, Silverstein, is called "The Ride of Your Life." It is designed to work with Facebook.
The other online campaign, called "The Road We're On," is being created by the New York office of Mother. This campaign offers video clips from around the country, in an echo of the commercial.
The commercial reflects how when "it's your birthday, you have a tendency to look back at what you've accomplished and look forward at what lies ahead," said Chris Perry, vice president for Chevrolet marketing and global strategy at G.M.
Mr. Perry spoke about the commercial on Wednesday afternoon, before its debut on Fox.
The photos in the commercial were found in "our archives," Mr. Perry said, and were shared by employees. They were also discovered on Internet sites like flickr.com, he added.
Brands that are marking milestone anniversaries sometimes shy from playing them up because of a perception that younger consumers find little of interest in product heritage.
That may be different now, however, because since the financial crisis there is more of an interest among so-called millennial consumers in brands with histories and track records, particularly those with American roots.
The history of Chevrolet "resonates" with younger consumers, Mr. Perry said, in that the brand has "played an integral part in American culture and is woven into the fabric of America."
At the same time, he added, there is "a nod to the future" in the campaign in that the commercial features current models like the Volt and Silverado.
And in the online "The Ride of Your Life," computer users can choose from among six Chevrolets to feature in short videos; the dates range from 1948 to 2010.
As much as Chevrolet is enjoying the celebration, "we're not going to overdo it," Mr. Perry said. "We're not using it to pound our chest."
For instance, the TV spot is likely to be the only one related to the centennial that will be produced, he added.
The Chevrolet Motor Car Company was founded on Nov. 3, 1911, by Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant. The Chevy brand is now sold in more than 140 countries, G.M. says.
The spot marks the first time that a version recorded live by Mr. Charles of "America the Beautiful" has been used in a commercial, Mr. Perry said.