Friday, December 3, 2010

GM: We All Fall Down ... But Some Fall Harder

Two years ago, the federal government made a controversial decision ... to offer bailout money to Detroit automakers to help them get back on their feet. General Motors received $9.4 billion; Chrysler received $7 billion; and in a surprise move, Ford refused any bailout money from the government.

While I don't claim to even remotely understand the world of finance, media sources like Fox have reported that GM's April repayment of their bailout loans was not obtained through car sales, but rather was repaid with money that GM withdrew from yet another TARP fund at the Treasury Department.

Whether this is true or not really isn't what's rubbing me the wrong way. It's the latest TV commercial that GM began airing Thanksgiving weekend. 
The spot begins with images of people that have been defeated - a knocked down boxer, a rocket that explodes upon takeoff, a catastrophic motorcycle crash, a weakened Popeye listlessly floating to the bottom of a lake.

Then ... triumph.

Popeye eats his spinach and his muscles instantly grow. a rocket bursts from its launching pad as it heads for the stars, Harry Truman triumphantly holds up a "Dewey Beats Truman" newspaper. The super reads:

“We all fall down. Thank you for helping us get back up.”

Let me start by saying that as ads go, it's a good one. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners delivers a poignant message very effectively ... we have all suffered at the hand of defeat at some point in our lives.  Often, through sheer grit and determination, as well as the support of those around us, we pick ourselves up off the ground, stare adversity in the eye and prove to ourselves and the world that we are not quitters and we cannot be defeated.

So, it really isn't the ad per se that I have trouble with. Rather, what angers me is the money that GM spent on this advertising, as well as the message it sends - we'll take your taxpayer dollars and then spend millions thanking you for that handout.

Is it just me or is this a paradox of the worse kind?

The Feds stepped in to help GM and Chrysler because they believed it was in the public interest of our country to save Detroit. They preserved jobs for tons of UAW workers, as well as for all the suppliers that serviced that industry.  The government didn't ask our opinion before giving all this money to GM and Chrysler. My guess is that if this decision had been put to a vote, many citizens would have voted it down. So, maybe GM should be thanking the federal government, not us.

Plus, let's be real ... typically when a company mismanages their way into failure, they are forced to deal with the consequences of their own actions. They file for bankruptcy, figure out when went wrong, fix it, and move on or close their doors. All without a penny from the U.S. government.

So maybe we should be thanking Ford for getting back up ... all on their own.

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