Pontiac’s Social Scavenger Hunt Falls Flat

It’s a mad mad mad mad mad world for GM Canada as they’ve concluded a three-city interactive campaign for the new Pontiac Vibe called “Catch the Vibe.” But, in my view, this campaign was hardly worth the cost and effort. Here’s the breakdown:

A cross-country scavenger hunt fueled by Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr; plus e-mails, online ads, video clips, blogs, wikis, and text messages.

The campaign consisted of two-person teams, each driving a Vibe.

So far, it’s not unlike past campaigns: Budget’s 2005 16-city treasure hunt or Volvo’s 2007 buried car treasure hunt (a Pirates of the Caribbean tie-in), for example.

What’s so unusual is that each team is made up of journalists, 96 in total, covering their efforts as they raced around town to complete bizarre tasks and search for objects. They were given a Pearl 8130 to help search for clues and complete challenges like taking a picture in front of a church with red doors, or a shot of a participant hugging a cop. Points were given to teams who recruited people to cheer for them on the site.

The Vibe’s online campaign site attracted around 4,000 unique visitors and in excess of 2,000 registered online team supporters since the event began on March 24.

Hardly a success, in my book. The math alone speaks volumes: 96 participating journalists and 2,000 registered supporters. Sounds like friends and family to me. Consider that Volvo’s campaign had more than 32,000 participants and over a million site visitors. Budget saw nearly 50,000 participants. And, both of those campaigns were directly linked to increased sales/rentals and dealership traffic.

The thing is most of these reporters automatically test-drive new vehicles. So, GM didn’t really gain anything by limiting the campaign to media. In fact, they may have hurt their launch because instead of writing about the car and its features, participating journalists wrote about the goofy things they were made to do; and – in some cases – reported on how much they love the Pearl (see paragraph 3 under Mathieu Lapointe). Sure, they had fun on GM’s dime, but writing about collecting coins and finding three vibrating objects doesn’t really boost Pontiac’s bottom line. And, nothing better exemplifies this aspect of the blunder than a quote from Chris Chase of Candian Driver, “Unfortunately, I didn’t get to drive the Vibe at all (not even around the block), so I haven’t a clue how it handles or feels. But, I had a good amount of time in the passenger seat — which is fairly comfortable.” 

Some of the journalists invited to participate don’t cover cars at all. I can understand the notion that getting someone like Ellen Mizra, a freelance beauty writer, to post about her scavenger hunt adventures might introduce the car to her readers. But really…if I’m reading about beauty products, I’m not so sure a report about Ellen’s difficulty blow-drying her hair in public will sell many vehicles.

I don’t get why consumers weren’t brought into this campaign. The ultimate goal is to sell cars. You do that by getting the buyer in the vehicle. In fact, at about 1:37 in this clip, a representative from this campaign specifically says, “the target market is the 25-35 year old who lives in social media.” Okay, so why not include that target in your campaign? It’s like they forgot the “social” part of social media. Campaigns like this are about participation, involvement, community. GM approached this like old-school media where people sit around reading about the exploits of others. Had GM allowed average folks to participate, even as part of the journalists’ teams, they could have introduced the Vibe to potential customers. Seems to me this was much ado for nothing.

Leave a Reply