Robert. B. Jarboe in Salesbusters

GM Is Still Stuck in First Gear: The Sorry State of Marketing Cars with Social Video

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Yesterday was Father’s Day, so I was tempted to do a roundup of my favorite videos about dads.  But, Carla Marshall had already done that in “Father’s Day Videos To Make You Laugh, Cry And Wince.”  And, as Jack Neff of Advertising Age noted over the weekend, “A survey released from the National Retail Federation earlier this month found people plan to pay $119.84 on average on Father’s Day gifts this year compared with $168.94 for moms on Mother’s Day. So, dads come up $49 behind, a gap that widened from $35 last year, thanks to a big 11% jump in planned Mother’s Day spending vs. 2% for dads.”

And let’s face it: the “Power of Dad | Oral-B” video isn’t likely to narrow the gap, since an Oral-B electric toothbrush costs between $11.64 and $94.99 at

Besides, my dad was the director of marketing at Oldsmobile back in the late 1980s. (If you’re over 35, you might remember his classic ad campaign, which proclaimed, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.”)

So, we wouldn’t have talked about electric toothbrushes on Father’s Day. We would have talked about marketing cars with social videos. Almost 20 years before YouTube was launched, my dad was creating funny videos for Oldsmobile dealer group conferences, like Salesbusters (1986).

Robert. B. Jarboe in Salesbusters
Robert B. Jarboe (center) in Salesbusters (1986).

And, as an automotive marketer, he would have been fascinated by the data and recommendations in the Unruly white paper, “Stuck in First Gear? The State of Automobile Marketing in Social Video.”

The white paper was released seven months ago, so we would have discussed whether anyone at General Motors had even read it yet. I would have argued that the marketing team at Chevrolet already had, the new one at Cadillac might have, and the laggards at Buick still hadn’t. And my father would have chuckled, because it often seemed that Olds competed more directly with Buick than with other automobile marques.

But, instead of just agreeing with me or playing devil’s advocate, my dad would have asked me why I had come to that conclusion. It’s one of the things about him that I’ve really missed since he passed away nine years ago.

I would have started with the YouTube Top 100 Most Subscribed Autos & Vehicles Channels List on VidStatsX and pointed out that Chevrolet’s channel has 197,291 subscribers and 49,608,913 views, the Cadillac channel has 70,453 subscribers and 8,922,698 video views, and WELCOME TO THE BUICK CHANNEL has only 3,771 subscribers and 1,980,556 views.

Then, I would have gone to the Channel Statistics for Chevrolet’s Channel on Socialbakers and observed that subscribers had grown from 117,432 six months ago on Dec. 28, 2012, to 197,172 on June 15, 2013. However, I would have been puzzled that the uploaded video views on Chevrolet’s channel had dropped from 77,700,430 on Mar. 3, 2013, to 42,054,946 on Mar. 16.

Socialbakers Chevy channel

According to Socialbakers, subscribers to the Cadillac channel had increased from 58,783 on Dec. 29, 2012, to 70,442 on June 16, 2013. And I would have been just as puzzled that uploaded video views on the Cadillac channel had also dropped from 11,566,820 on Mar, 4, 2012, to 8,101,199 on Mar. 30.

Socialbakers Cadillac channel

And according to Socialbakers, subscribers to the WELCOME TO THE BUICK CHANNEL had increased from 3,072 on Dec. 29, 2012, to 3,772 on June 16, 2013. And, just like its sister divisions, uploaded video views on the WELCOME TO THE BUICK CHANNEL had dropped from 7,024,347 on Mar. 4, 2013, to 1,805,449 on Mar. 17.

Socialbakers Buick channel

So, what happened to the view counts?

Well, it may have been caused by changes in how YouTube counts video views.  In the past, YouTube would count all the views of all the videos on a channel, even for videos that may have been deleted or made private. To make this “less confusing to viewers,” they transitioned earlier this year to only displaying the total views of videos that are publicly available on a channel. So if a brand had deleted videos or made them private or unlisted, those views were removed from its channel total.

So, the Socialbakers data probably tells us more about the challenges of using “views” to measure success on YouTube than it does about which auto marketers “get” social video.

Finally, I would have gone to Unruly’s Viral Video Chart of the Top 100 Videos for the past 365 days in the Motors category. And the only viral video on the chart from GM is “OK Go – Needing/Getting – Official Video,” which was published on Feb. 5, 2012.

The music video from OK Go was made in partnership with Chevrolet 18 months ago for Super Bowl 2012.

Since “OK Go – This Too Shall Pass – Rube Goldberg Machine version – Official,” “OK Go – White Knuckles – Official Video,” and “OK Go – Here It Goes Again” also went viral, this indicates that OK Go may know how to get their content shared on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs again and again.

However, Chevy hasn’t been able to place another video into the Top 100 Videos for the past 365 days in the Motors category. So, this indicates their marketing team may still be struggling to find the formula for repeating their initial success.

Why should marketers at Chevrolet, Buick, or Cadillac care?

Well, according to the Unruly white paper, Chevy saw purchase intent double for consumers who were exposed to the brand’s social video compared to a non-exposed control group. Oh, and a third of those viewers said they were likely to purchase a Chevrolet car in the future and 4% claimed they visited a showroom after seeing the video.

So, finding the formula for making their video content contagious is a big deal. And it’s become an even bigger deal now that YouTube is getting more than a billion unique visitors every month, which is the equivalent of roughly nine or 10 Super Bowl audiences.

Now, that would have been an exhilarating conversation to have had with my dad on Father’s Day. I really miss him, our conversations about marketing cars, and his funny videos.

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