CEOs in Ads Make Comeback

June 24, 2006

CEOs in Ads Make Comeback

Heard about some new automotive-advertisements coming to our TV sets. CEOs will have the starring roles. Have to wonder why now? I can’t say that Detroit chiefs are known for grabbing the spotlight. Yes, there was Lee Iacocca but times have changed.

Bill Ford of Ford Motor Company is continuing his advertising series on safety and innovation that began in October 2005. Yet this time Ford will be talking about our dependence on oil and what Ford Motor is doing about our so-called “addiction.” Ford will be discussing his company’s efforts to improve fuel efficiency in an attempt to improve “the company’s environmental reputation.” More on these ads at

His counterpart in Germany, DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche, will also be featured in advertisements next month. The ads will reportedly convey the distinctiveness of U.S. Chrysler vehicles embedded with a little of that prestigious German technology we all lust after. Apparently, the article on where I read about the launch says that Zetsche will be subtly reminding people that the fusion of American-German cultures is what distinguishes his line of cars from main line Detroit manufacturers.

CEOs appearing in ads more or less started with Iacocca. We then went through several years of advertisements where CEOs were as important as the products and business models they were hyping. Lately, most advertisements where CEOs are featured exist for the sole purpose of announcing a merger, begging shareholders to renounce a hostile suitor or showing a new face because the previous one is tainted.

Since CEO-starring ads have declined over the past several years as CEOs averted people’s eyes due to Enron, WorldCom and Adelphi, these new CEO-starring ads might have the advantage of standing out and showcasing commitment.

Being a CEO-junkie as I am, I have to hand it to these boys for agreeing to be in these ads. I am sure it is the last thing they planned on doing this year. Someone had to convince them that they had no choice as public opinion increasingly sours as gas prices hike up. We have to give each CEO an applause for doing what must go against their grain. For that reason, I will listen to what they have to say.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

  • Rob Amberg
    Posted at 16:14h, 25 June Reply

    While I’d rather see a CEO in an ad than a celebrity, I still think corporate CEO’s, by their choice or not, put too much emphasis on their reputation as it relates to that of the company’s. I’d like to see investors and the general public look past the actions of one man, or woman, before making a reputation judgment on an entire organization.

  • jjkirkwood
    Posted at 03:27h, 26 June Reply

    Mr. Amberg, you simply could not be more WRONG! The CEO is everything. In today’s environment of finacial wrong-doings, product mis-representations, and down-right corporate thugs; it is imparative for the CEO’s to step up and put their reputation forward.

    Man, what rock have you been under.


  • Rob Amberg
    Posted at 15:09h, 26 June Reply

    John, the CEO’s are largely the ones doing the financial wrong-doings and mis-representations, so why would I put them front and center as my beacon of reputation? Edelman’s 2006 Trust Barometer showed that people who are most trusted are ‘people like themselves or a peer.’ Not a lot of CEO’s in that group.

  • LGR
    Posted at 04:44h, 05 July Reply

    I think that companies should expand their executive positioning beyond the CEO but ultimately the CEO is the face of the organization, sets the tone and defines reality. CEOs definitely have work to do to improve their standing among stakeholders but again, they are critical to an organization’s success.

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