Mazda Trumps Pontiac

7 Aug

This is an oldie-but-goodie that I was reminded of after noticing the abundance of product-placement in Transformers. The movie was literally sponsored by GM’.

I also could not share this juicy little tidbit until now as we had been managing all of Mazda’s Search Engine Marketing Programs for the past several years but were sat down in the conference room last quarter and told ‘you’re fired’!

Anyway, this is the actual video we created as a case study for the original ‘Mazda Miata vs Pontiac Solstice’ Conquesting campaign:


We got word through Mazda corporate that Pontiac was going to break their new ‘sexy gorgeous two-seat roadster’ (aka the Pontiac Solstice) on fox’s The Apprentice about 4 weeks before the show was scheduled to air on NBC (Thursday, 04/14/05).

That is all we knew.

In that short period of time, we put together a program strategy, created a data collection micro-site for Mazda’s New MX-5 (formerly known as Miata) comparing it to the Pontiac Solstice (to meet Yahoo! Search Marketing’s editorial guidelines) and set up our search engine marketing program. Based on past experience with offline awareness driving online activity, we had the foresight to know this episode would drive searchers to the web looking for the ‘apprentice car’ so we added it to our list of keywords.

What we didn’t know is that NBC, through a partnership with Yahoo!, would literally tell people at the end of show: for more information on the vehicle you saw in this week’s episode of the apprentice, go to Yahoo! and search for ‘apprentice car’.

I guess someone at Yahoo! also didn’t know because they didn’t purchase ‘apprentice car; for Pontiac!

The Scrub

The next day (Friday 04/15/05) at just past 6 pm our Overture (now Yahoo! Search Marketing) rep forwarded us the following notice:

    • apprentice video
    • apprentice car
    • apprentice pontiac”
  • “The Content Quality Team is currently involved in an emergency scrub of the search term mentioned below.

    The listing have been deleted for violation of the Content guideline:
    Search Terms:

The “Makegood”

About 3 months later (07/19/05), I received the following invite to attend the company formerly known as Overture (and GoTo for that matter), Yahoo! Search Marketing’s annual brand summit at the W Hotel in West LA:

    “Please join us for our inaugural Brand Summit–where we will be spotlighting an agency panel discussion to increase awareness of how search complements other forms of marketing and positively impacts brands. Executive-level panelists from the following agencies will present case studies where search was integrated into the overall marketing mix.

    Tribal DDB | RPA | Carat | Performics

    We will also be featuring keynote speaker Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR’s On the Media, author of Advertising Age’s widely read column “Ad Review” and the recent “Chaos Scenario.”

    And one lucky guest will take home a flat-screen plasma TV.

    We hope you will join us for the Brand Summit–and cocktails and conversation afterward!”

They sold me on the cocktails and conversation so I decided to show up after work on August 18th. When I arrived I was handed a pretty purple day planner (PPDP for all you acronym junkies) with the words “Yahoo! Search Engine Marketing Brand Summit” engraved on the front. Nice Branding!

After I squeezed into the room that was definitely undersized for the overbooked event, I decided to flip through the pages of my PPDP. The names of the first few panelists listed on the inside of the cover were not surprising as I knew from experience and a few agency credit allocation sheets that I have been sent numerous times on accident by my YSM reps (they show ALL of Yahoo!’s credit allocations by account) that they were the largest advertisers on the west coast (Performics, Carat, RPA, Tribal DDB, etc).

However, I did not recognize the name on the last page as it was the advertiser (client in my world) not their agency; an Associate Media Director over at ‘GM Planworks’ by the name of Jennifer Simkins. Her team was listed as being effective in generating new lead volume for GM, primarily through search across all GM divisions. Knowing that GM is the parent co of Pontiac I thought this name stood out a bit and might be interesting.

And it was. The case study she presented was on the successful integrated (online/offline) launch of Pontiac’s New Solstice using Yahoo! Search!

I almost fell off my chair. To make good on the um ‘slight oversight’ during the debut of the Solstice after airing The Apprentice, Yahoo! honored the Media Director at GM.
It was unfortunate that people could no longer go to Yahoo! and do a search for ‘apprentice car’ and see what we saw 3 months ago. Unbelievable. I really thought someone over Pontiac/GM had also been told “you’re fired” after that one.

The Trademark Policy Change

Fast forwarding 6 months and almost immediately after the headlines were buzzing about ‘Google Pontiac’, on 02/23/06 by Danny Sullivan, John Batelle and SEOMoz (amongst others), YSM sent out the following Yahoo! Account Alert to all of their advertisers:

    “Dear Advertiser,

    We wanted to let you know of a policy change that will affect your account.
    On March 1, 2006, Yahoo! Search Marketing will modify its editorial
    guidelines regarding the use of keywords containing trademarks.
    Previously, we allowed competitive advertising by allowing advertisers to
    bid on third-party trademarks if those advertisers offered detailed
    comparative information about the trademark owner’s products or services in
    comparison to the competitive products and services that were offered or
    promoted on the advertiser’s site.

    In order to more easily deliver quality user experiences when users search
    on terms that are trademarks, Yahoo! Search Marketing has determined that we will no longer allow bidding on keywords containing competitor trademarks.

    Our records indicate that you currently have one or more listings that were
    allowed under the competitive advertising guideline. On March 1, 2006, these
    listings will be removed from your account, and we will no longer accept
    listings containing search terms comprised of your competitors’ trademarks.

    For more information on our trademark policy, please visit

    Please note that Condition #3 (“Competitive Comparison Site”) will be
    removed when the policy is officially implemented on March 1, but advertiser
    listings that qualify under the reseller or non-competitor information
    guidelines may be allowed, subject to Yahoo!’s discretion to accept or
    reject listings. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this issue,
    please do not hesitate to contact us at (866) 924-6676 or by submitting a
    Support Request Form from your account.

    While we apologize in advance for any inconvenience this may cause you, we
    r />believe that this change in our policy enhances our ability to provide the
    best experience for users.


    Your Partners at Yahoo! Search Marketing”

I was told by an inside source at the company that this was a direct result of Mazda’s Search Engine Marketing Strategies. I guess they took GM serious when they threatened to no longer advertise on Yahoo! :).

Until Next Time,

-The MADD Man

PS: Sorry for ruining the party for everyone.
PSS: YES, we did sell A LOT of cars for Mazda via search over the years.
PSSS: I am very curious to know why their new vendor did not claim them as a client when they got acquired.