Chevy's Make-Your-Own SUV Ads Go Off Message

Chevrolet has run into problems with its innovative Internet ad campaign for the Chevy Tahoe, which gives site visitors wide latitude in creating their own Tahoe ads. But the campaign, tied in with a contest for The Apprentice TV show, has created a somewhat of a backlash.

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MELISA BLOCK, host:

A few weeks ago the folks at General Motors began an online contest hoping to generate some buzz about the 2007 Chevy Tahoe. The idea is to let people make their own commercials using stock footage of the full-size SUV. Users pick one of eight sound tracks, and they write their own ad copy. After entering the contest they receive a link to their newly assembled creations, which they can then share. But in some cases Chevy's project has gotten away from them.

(soundbite of music)

BLOCK: One entry shows the Tahoe perched on a snowy mountain peak. The text on the screen reads: Like snow, beautiful landscapes? Be sure to take it all in now because tomorrow this (bleep) SUV will change the world. Global warming isn't a pretty SUV ad; it's a frightening reality.

Mr. DAVID ROBERTS (Staff Writer, Grist): I've seen ones mocking the connection of gas-guzzling SUV's to the end of cheap oil. I've seen ones mocking the connection of big SUV's to male performance issues. I've seen a lot of very creative and funny ads, but none of them have been complimentary toward the Chevy Tahoe.

BLOCK: That's David Roberts, a staff writer for the online environmental magazine Grist. Chevy's ad campaign became the topic of discussion on his blog last week, with readers posting links to their own 30-second commercials after Roberts shared his.

Mr. ROBERTS: My kick was, look, we're sending all these young kids over to get hurt and die. We're spending all this money to secure our supply of oil. At the very least you should use some of it. And the tag line was Chevy Tahoe, don't let all those deaths go to waste. I was just trying to be as intentionally provocative as possible, just to see if Chevy would, just to see if the website would let me do it.

BLOCK: And it did, at least for a few days. David Roberts says the link to his commercial wasn't active this morning, and a few of his readers say they've had problems with their links, too. But that's not deterring other environmentally minded pranksters from making their own SUV ads.

Mr. ROBERTS: They're trying to send the message that it's just not okay anymore for Americans to huddle up in their little bubble and try to pretend that the rest of the world doesn't exist. That's the kind of message that Chevy's going to get from this, much to their chagrin, I think.

BLOCK: Chevrolet says submissions remain posted to the website regardless of tone towards the product. The company says it anticipated that there might be some critical submissions, but says it's happy with the results of its contest to promote one-on-one interaction with the brand. And we're guessing that contestants who are critical of SUV's and the people who drive them won't win Chevy's contest. The Web site states an entry which in the sole discretion of the judges is not in keeping with the image of the sponsors will be disqualified. The contest ends April 10th.

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