Friday, May 6, 2011

I love Twitter

It wasn't 30 seconds after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made the announcement yesterday when the first angry posts hit the twittersphere.

Five hours later, he was 'fired.'

Fiasco avoided.

I have just one question...

What they hell were they thinking?

In what world is inviting Donald Trump to drive the pace car for the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing a good idea? The Hulman's have made a lot of stupid decisions over the years – bringing Formula 1 to the track, building that god-awful pagoda that destroyed the sight lines from so many vantage points, and forcing the split with CART that almost killed the sport – but this ranks right up there. Here's how they explained it.

"Trump is the very definition of the American success story. He has set new standards of excellence while expanding his interests nationally and internationally, with personal involvement in every one of his ventures."

Forget for a moment that Trump is a self-important, blowhard who's been bankrupt more times than he's been divorced. He has nothing, let me repeat NOTHING, to do with racing.

It's an insult to the great drivers who risked their lives circling the track over the past 100 years that they would even consider putting this man behind the wheel. Reading his quote in the press release almost made me ill.

“The Indianapolis 500 has been the gold standard of motorsports for a century, and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the Camaro and bring the famous field of 33 drivers to the green flag." Classy.

Selecting The Donald and the dead animal that rides atop his head to drive the pace car for the 100th anniversary of The Indy 500 shows why the race has lost its relevance over the years. It's clear the people running the event have no respect for its history and are out of touch with those who love the sport.

That gasbag had no business on Gasoline Alley.

Thanks to Twitter and #BumpTrump, he won't be.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Range Rover doesn't play it safe

Safety is a benefit. One of the most important in the car business, especially for women.

So it's no surprise that with Volvo ceding its ownership of that positioning, someone would step into the void. It's not surprising that someone would be Land Rover. After all, they have incredible on and off road capabilities, they're built about as solidly as any vehicle that doesn't have a military insignia on the side, and they look the part.

What is surprising is how they chose to advertise this benefit.

No shots of test dummies being saved by air bags. No doe eyed children sleeping in the back seat as mom delivers them safely home through a thunderstorm. No footage of a Land Rover pulling itself out of a windows-deep quagmire. Just a simple, funny story that says, Land Rover is the safest place you can be.

I'm a little worried that these vignettes border on irrelevant (do three bad cops speak to well-heeled suburban housewives?) but I love the effort. It's nice to see a campaign for safety that's anything but.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this campaign plays out.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cool enough for you?

Can renting a car be cool?

Can a commercial about renting a car be cool?

Apparently if you create a mascot that looks like the monochromatic cousin of Stewie Griffin, hire Owen Wilson to do your voice over and then shoot a commercial that says nothing about your business or how you're different and better than all the other rental car companies out there, you can.

Oh, I get it. It's all about being consumer-centric. If we show you how insightful we are then you'll love us. Look, we even have a website that helps us figure out who you are. See, if you're a sorry stick-in-the-mud, otherwise known as a "Brake," we'll recommend a mini-van. But if you're a wild person who lives on the edge, a "Gas," we'll rent you a Dodge Challenger! Cool, huh?

What's the point of all this?

According to Catherine East, Group Account Director for DDB New York, this campaign will help Hertz re-establish themselves as a "Culture Brand." First of all, what the hell is a culture brand? And secondly, was Hertz ever one? I doubt they were even in their heyday when OJ was flying through airports.

My guess is most people don't consider products they interact with a couple of times a year part of their culture. They're a convenience.

I applaud Hertz for trying to do something more. Something different. Something that stands out in the category. But this is a hollow effort. It may raise their awareness, but what's the brand going to do for me? What's the benefit? What does Hertz do better than any other car rental company so I have something other to go on than price when choosing a car?

When they've answered those questions maybe they'll be ready to try to be something more than just cool.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bad cars, even worse reporting

A few weeks ago Forbes ran the article, "The Worst Cars On The Road." In it nine of the eleven vehicles are from either GM or Chrysler. Not good PR for the Government Two car companies.

Looking at the cars listed, however, the news is not as bad as it seems.

The "Worst Cars" from GM are the Cadillac Escalade, Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, Chevy Colorado and Chevy Aveo. The Chrysler vehicles to make this list are the Dodge Nitro, Dodge Dakota, Jeep Liberty, Wrangler Unlimited and Chrysler Town & Country.

Basically all the nameplates on this list are pre-bankruptcy vehicles, and given that some of the criteria for this list are value, cost of ownership and fuel economy it's not surprising that the list is dominated by big, heavy, expensive SUVs and trucks. They're old Detroit. Even the Chevy Aveo comes from that model where GM gave up building small cars and sourced cheap, crappy little boxes from partners like Daewoo.

I'm not going to defend the cars on the list. None are great in my estimation and some, like the Dodge Nitro, answer an automotive question that nobody asked. But labeling them as the "worst" is a little over the top.

And that's my other problem with this list, the source of its information: Consumer Reports. Forbes did no original testing for this evaluation and ignored other reliable sources of information like J.D. Power & Associates. They just compiled data from Consumer Reports. Lazy reporting at best.

I know I've been critical of GM and Chrysler in the past and will continue to call 'em like I see 'em, but this list is a hack job that just piles on based on old, biased and specious information.

I don't know why I expected more from Forbes.

Monday, May 2, 2011

This was easy

A few months ago, I posted about Delta's new ad campaign from Wieden+Kennedy concluding with this:

"...But when you walk up to a Delta counter to find that you've been bumped from your flight and the agent says, "Sorry, there's nothing I can do but put you on the first flight out tomorrow." the promise is broken. The passenger says, I guess you're really not any different. And the millions of dollars spent to communicate the brand promise has been wasted."

This happened to a friend of mine on Friday as he and his family were to travel home from Michigan to Connecticut. They showed up at the airport with their infant child with plenty of time to board their flight. They checked their bags, checked in, and found their way to the gate. After a short wait came the announcement. Their flight had been cancelled and passengers would be rebooked.

After waiting in line they got to the counter and were offered a $50 voucher and a flight out the next day. No overnight accommodations. Oh, and their luggage was already on another plane and couldn't be retrieved. Worst of all, they had timed there trip so they could be home to attend a friend's wedding which they would now miss.

Delta's explanation for this inconvenience? The crew didn't show up. Surprised my friend asked, you mean they got stuck in another city? And the gate agent said, "no, sometimes people don't show up for work, you know how that is."

That's when he got angry. This wasn't a mechanical problem. This wasn't an act of god. It was the representatives of a brand not doing their jobs and a brand not holding them accountable. A brand that had promised their passengers that they had their backs.

Delta failed on the most fundamental level. And if you've ever flown, you could see this coming from miles away.