Commentary: It's Just an Ad

Photo courtesy of General Motors

See that ad up there? We will talk about that a bit later…

First, a story has to be told. Last weekend, I was able to clean up the ashy soot from burning tires to bounce up to the small town of Pine City, Minnesota for the eighth edition of East Central Minnesota Pride in the Park. I was there on a volunteer assignment to take photos from the event for Lavender. Luckily, there were a few familiar faces from down in The Cities, but I was there to experience a LGBT Pride event in one of the smallest communities in North America to host one.

Perhaps I forgot to check Interpride's website as to what else was going on the same weekend. Unbeknownst to me, another Pride celebration was taking place at a much larger community several hundred miles away – Detroit.

Motor City Pride should be on my radar, considering the number of people I know from the industry and the media in that part of the world. I am certain the employee resource groups for all three major automobile manufacturers were in the parade and had booths at the plaza. Probably some colleagues had a good time at Hart Plaza, despite having the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle running not too far away. Never can be at too many places – trust me, I know.

Leave it to General Motors to take things a step further. Being one of the sponsors of Motor City Pride, the company took out an ad in Between The Lines, the local LGBT publication for Southeastern Michigan. It was a bold statement to make for the Chevrolet Volt for his (or her) "parents," a Chevrolet Tahoe (or Suburban) and a Chevrolet Cruze.

"Mom, Dad, I'm Electric."

The Chevrolet ad goes on to tout the Volt until it makes the statement of how proud they are to sponsor Motor City Pride.

When the ad hit Facebook via GM's Diversity Communications for LGBT markets head Joe LaMuraglia, it became an even greater hit beyond Southeastern Michigan. Soon after I shared it on my Facebook, my friends began liking the original post and sharing on their timelines. I even got it on Victory & Reseda's Facebook page and a group page for a local group of Bears who love cars.

The likes and shares just scratch the surface of the resonance of Chevrolet's Motor City Pride ad. It prompted plenty of thought. To start off, there were a few detractors – no specifics needed to be given. Perhaps because there are reasons behind the detractions– the battle over GM's stock held by the governmental bodies in the USA and Canada, the dogged Congressional volleyball over the Volt itself and the idea that the extended range electric vehicle is not representative of the LGBT community.

Yet, the point of this ad is being missed for everyone that either props up another automaker that is more popular with LGBT automobile consumers or dredge up GM's post-Bankruptcy issues. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has to make a stand. GM had a clear conscience when making this stand.

The stand GM made was not at all political. As with all automobile manufacturers selling vehicles in this country, they recognize an economic benefit towards reaching out to LGBT consumers. Some do specific advertising to the demographic, while others would rather unify a singular message devoid of culturally specific messages.

The next level is ad placement. As the employee resource group, GM PLUS, happens to be Silver Sponsors of Motor City Pride, the company made a strategic move by including the advert in Between The Lines that makes a simple statement by melding the Hamtramck-built Volt with its support the local LGBT community.

Let us not forget that the Renaissance Center, GM's headquarters, had rainbow motifs displayed on its electronic boards. It is the closest headquarters of the Big Three to be located near Hart Plaza.

What about other manufacturers? Chrysler's employee resource group, GALA, Ford's equivalent, GLOBE, and the United Auto Workers were also Silver Sponsors to Motor City Pride. Their logos, along with GM PLUS', appeared in the magazine with all of the advertising pertaining to Motor City Pride, but no other ads appeared in the magazine by the two other manufacturers and the UAW.

Granted, those who oppose the rights of LGBT citizens already targeted the Big Three at one time or another. Each had their own reaction to these threats, but how have they responded when the threats were not immediately present? Again, we look at GM being the only automotive concern with an "It Gets Better" video, wider coverage of their employee resource group and, now, this ad.

The ad itself is brilliant. The message was simple enough to understand. It gave a few folks a chuckle or two. Overall, the ad was very effective.

Should the ad run elsewhere around the country. That is up to GM to decide. It may be too late for ad buys in the Pride Editions of every LGBT publication across the USA. It would be a bonanza for Chevrolet to have the ad appear in those publications – in full color.

Back to the industry for a moment: What about the other manufacturers? There is a want for others to step up and create an affirming message reaching out and celebrating with its most loyal customers. Some actually have strategies to achieve exactly that. But, where are they?

According to the Human Rights Campaign, five automobile manufacturers – all with assembly facilities in this country – earned a perfect score in this year's Corporate Equality Index. GM scored a 90 out of 100 in the same index. Guess who did more for Motor City Pride?

There is a delicate balance regarding Pride celebrations. In Pine City, I heard several times the reasons people have given up on attending Twin Cities Pride. One such reason is the "commercialization" of Pride. To that, I ask what is a Pride celebration exactly? Should it be stuck in the 1970s where liberation and politics are the primary driver for a continual protest? Or, should we realize that there are companies out there that want to celebrate with our community. Interpret the latter as you will.

It is worth noting that there were a slew of ball caps from a local Chevrolet dealer in North Branch that were being auctioned off at East Central Minnesota Pride in the Park.

One of the most important ambassadors for any company are the employee resource groups. If such groups do not fly the banner of their employer, who is going to know which entity to bank at, get good healthcare from, or become the manufacturer of their next vehicle?

Why should I discuss all of this because of an ad? Simply because us LGBT folk need it! The marketing folks know this very well. In this case, this ad spoke to us and our need to be acknowledged as a viable, relevant and integral part of American society – consumer-focused or not.

Perhaps it was apt that Chevrolet kept the "runs deep" tagline after all.

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