The Road Ahead-September 2009

A chance glance at a pithy thought printed on a T-shirt took Huffington Post blogger Schuyler Brown through a door to the future and “The Golden Age of PR.” The phrase: “Nothing Is More Abstract Than Reality,” brought Brown a vision of “what’s changing as we enter the wild west of information
dissemination is that the concept of journalistic integrity has nearly disappeared and concepts like ’the truth’ and ‘reality’ have become so abstract as to be meaningless.” The Road Ahead: September 2009

Photo By: Cheryl Leinonen

Reduced ad budgets (down $1.7 billon in auto advertising alone during the first half of the year) has freed funding for actual and virtual consumer interactions, clever spins and artful image-building event marketing to move product and ease our existential discontent with “old realities.” Diana Verde Nieto, writing for Media Post Publications, says, the new reality involves, “taking the message of a brand and using it to produce entertainment that consumers are interested in and want to engage with. By producing these new entertainment experiences brands gain significant publicity.”

Current examples, Buick’s “Art of Taste” events in several cities in conjunction with Uptown Magazine that combine music, culinary arts and entertainment to showcase the 2010 LaCrosse for the magazine’s affluent African-American audience, Scion’s sending an art collection on tour and then auctioning if off for charity, Audi’s “Youth Mobile 2030 Los Angeles Design Challenge”, Ford’s “You Speak Green” Facebook promotion and B.F. Goodrich’s “Nation of Go” traveling road show and multi-platform interactive tie-ins.

Frank Rich offers a more somber vision of the road ahead in The New York Times (Is Obama Punking Us?) when he writes, “What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sale of prime concert tickets to cultural forces as pervasive as the news media.” As an example of the latter, Rich offered his paper’s report that the corporate bosses of MSNBC and Fox News sanctioned an agreement to tone down the on-air war between their respective cable stars. Rich said the report, “fed legitimate suspicions on the left and the right that even their loudest public voices can be silenced if the business interests of the real American elite decree it.”

A questionable prospect for auto journalists: knowingly or not, feeding fantasy as reality to abet the financial interests of their employer. Tom Kelley provides one answer in this month’s Tom-Tom: become truly expert in one or two areas. This viewpoint is supported by a recent comment by Alan Press, senior marketing vice president for the very successful publication, The Economist, “There is a myth that people are looking for sound-bites and celebrity…The reality is that there is a growing demand among the educated for intelligent news, analysis and entertainment that challenges, amuses and informs.” (Quoted in Wooden Horse News, Sept. 1)