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'The biggest launch in Chevrolet's history' Add to ...

Less than three years after its parent company almost disappeared, Chevrolet Canada is launching three new cars this week with an ad campaign so large that it will be virtually impossible to avoid.

Stretching across all of the national broadcast and specialty television networks, with complementary buys on high-traffic Web portals including MSN.ca, Yahoo.ca, Sympatico.ca, and a one-day takeover of YouTube’s Canadian homepage, the campaign seeks to buff Chevrolet’s tarnished brand by introducing the turbo-charged subcompact Sonic, the family-friendly Orlando crossover, and the brand’s highly anticipated electric-and-gas Volt.

“It’s the biggest launch in Chevrolet’s history,” said Mike Speranzini, the director of advertising and communications for General Motors of Canada Ltd. “By the time you’re eating Thanksgiving dinner next weekend, our estimate is 95 per cent of Canadians (18 years and older) will have been exposed to Sonic, Orlando, and Volt.”

Mr. Speranzini pegged the size of the media buy – the amount of commercial time on TV and the number of appearances in other media – at almost 50 per cent larger than last year’s successful launch of the Cruze compact car.

And the positioning of all three new cars continues Chevrolet’s bid to be seen as “progressive, global, human” brand, originally established during the launch of the Cruze. Television viewers will once again be treated to fast-moving, colourful tours of the five continents in which all people of the world live happily together and drive Chevrolets. The company’s Canadian tagline, which evokes the innovations represented by the Volt, is “Driving our world forward.” MacLaren McCann Toronto, the auto maker’s ad agency, executed the creative.

Reflecting the growing market of first-generation Canadians, the campaign will mark the first time a Chevrolet Canada campaign rolls out in seven languages: English, French, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hindi, Punjabi and Tamil.

The company also hopes to chalk up another first on Tuesday, when it will take over the home page of YouTube in Canada. Viewers automatically will be served up streaming video of an all-day event at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square is set to feature programming aimed at the target markets for all three cars: Prospective Sonic buyers will be treated to the live creation of a 40-foot-wide work of graffiti, prospective Volt buyers can have fun with an “electrifying lightning display” (similar to the Van de Graaf generators seen at science centres), and Orlando-oriented working moms can listen to the mommy blogger Erica Ehm and child-rearing expert Nanny Robina offer tips on parenting.

The launch came on the same day that Chevrolet’s parent company General Motors Canada reported September sales slid 6 per cent from year-earlier levels, led by a 22-per-cent drop in passenger car sales. The Detroit auto maker emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009.

A successful launch of the Sonic is vital, as the subcompact segment is the only market on the car side to record an increase in sales this year, and is critical to attracting new drivers. It’s up against the new Ford Fiesta, the Mazda2 and longer-in-the-tooth products such as the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.

The much-hyped Volt is what GM calls an extended-range electric vehicle. It relies mainly on its electric motor, which can be recharged by plugging it in, but it also has a small gas-powered engine in case the electric power plant runs out of juice.

The Chevrolet Orlando is a crossover designed to entice buyers of minivans, a market GM abandoned earlier this decade, but which is still the fourth-largest segment on the truck side of the ledger. Crossovers are one of the hottest market segments and the competition is fierce as all auto makers crank them out.

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