For more than 35 years BEN has been proud to work with General Motors, bringing the automaker’s many makes and models to life on screen through the power of popular entertainment. Recently, BEN’s VP of Client Service, Maral Beylerian, connected with GM’s Head of Branded Entertainment, Sarah Schrode to discuss the company’s vision for the future of entertainment marketing.
BEN — Maral Beylerian is a Vice President of Client Services at BEN overseeing the General Motors program. She has an extensive track record in entertainment marketing, getting her start at CAA and has been with BEN for over 15 years.
GM — Sarah Schrode has been the Head of Branded Entertainment at General Motors for three years. Her focus is on forging partnerships and placements that bring GM’s diverse range of brands; Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac into modern culture and entertainment.
MB: General Motors has built a legacy with its entertainment program over the past several decades. For a company with a robust and varied marketing strategy, why do you find it important to continue investing in the entertainment space?
SS: Now more than ever, people are comforted by entertainment. General Motors, as the largest American auto manufacturer in the world, has a big role to play in telling stories of the past, present, and future. Our brands, GM, Chevy, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac all have unique brand identities and strategies, but entertainment plays a part for all of them. Entertainment is unskippable and unblockable, and lives on which is a key differentiator versus other marketing strategies.
When it comes to entertainment – whether it’s a feature or series or something in the digital realm – what do you look for in a partner?
When it comes to entertainment partnerships, it’s paramount that everything we do is authentic. We look for aligned company values and always like to push the boundaries and find ways to innovate.
What kind of content do you love seeing your cars in? And how does it differ depending on the brand (Chevy, Buick, GMC, Cadillac)?
The car, truck, or SUV someone drives tells a lot about them as a person. My favorite content and placements are the ones where you couldn’t imagine the character driving anything else. Chevrolet is our multi-line brand offering EVs, cars, trucks, crossovers, SUVs, and performance cars. Cadillac is our luxury brand and will become all-electric by 2030. Buick is focused on stylish and sophisticated SUVs in every size and GMC is the only premium truck and SUV brand. My team is able to work on a little bit of everything – so there is never a dull moment!
There are so many exciting things happening in the auto industry – from electrification to autonomous technology. What role do you think entertainment will play in telling the stories of those new advances to your customers?
The automotive industry is changing more in the next few years than it has in the last fifty. It’s a very exciting time to be working for General Motors where the company vision is Zero-Zero-Zero. Zero emissions, zero crashes, and zero congestion. We need entertainment to help us influence culture and get us to our goals of getting everybody into an electric vehicle. We’ll need even more openness to fully reimagine the transportation experience through autonomous vehicles.
What are some of the most striking changes you’ve noticed in the entertainment industry over the past few years? (e.g., changes in viewing habits, ad skipping, globalization of content)
Like the auto industry, the entertainment industry is radically changing. That’s one of the reasons we are such great partners. In entertainment, there is more content than ever before. The couch is the new box office. The commitment to diversity and inclusion both in front of and behind the camera is amazing to watch and something that is extremely important to General Motors.