General Motors has launched a cutting-edge digital marketing tool to reach customers on Facebook and other popular websites. It assigned one of its top marketing executives to the effort.
The goal: Get owners of decade-old small cars to click on an ad encouraging them to have their defective ignition switches replaced before something bad happens.
Despite an unprecedented push to get 2.2 million U.S. cars into dealerships to replace faulty ignition switches now linked to at least 30 deaths, roughly 1 million of the cars remain unfixed.
GM calls the owners of the unrepaired cars the “unengaged audience,” and it knows who they are. The company spent months tracking down contact information and mailing recall notices. In fact, GM knows these owners well enough to have surveyed thousands of them to learn why they haven’t had their cars fixed.
Some have only one car and busy schedules with children. Others have dutifully followed GM’s instructions to strip all objects from the key chain to prevent the switch from slipping out of the run position, and figure that’s good enough.
To persuade the owners to have the repairs done, GM last month began a digital-marketing campaign worthy of a new-car launch. The automaker is working with an analytics company, Acxiom Corp., to place recall ads that reach the vast majority of the unengaged on popular websites.
Here’s how it works: GM gives Acxiom its list of the roughly 1 million “unengaged” owners. For privacy reasons, Acxiom acts as the go-between to match car owners with accounts on Facebook, MSN, AOL and other sites. The ads appear on those users’ home pages with a link to a site that explains how to get their Chevrolet Cobalt, Saturn Ion or other recalled car repaired. The New York Times reported last month that political campaigns have used the same technique to reach voters.