Up the Ideology

My sequel to the TCT book is the (long) forthcoming attempt to explain why corporate capitalism is doomed by one of its core products, the private automobile.

As this doom approaches, the level of ideology in car advertising on U.S. television grows apace. It is already well into its whistling-past-the-graveyard stage, in fact.

Watch a football game or an evening of godawful sitcoms, and you’ll see claims such as Ford’s jive — couched in the mega-annoying “Introducing the _____” trend in which advertisers of everything from cars to candy bars have recently been trying to hype their wares — about how its latest sedan is “entirely new.” Yeah, sure, the worst of the nineteenth-century transportation inventions is somehow now not so stupid. Why? Because its patent idiocy is starting to breathe on some necks, so must be repositioned, to stave off proper perception for a few more months or years.

Then there is this one from the supposedly cutting-edge Honda corporation.

Things can always be better? Um, no.

Some Good News

Turns out people aren’t as gullible as I recently reported.

This just in from Advertising Age:

CORRECTION: Both the original headline and the body of this story about Honda’s “Social Experiment” incorrectly stated that the automaker tallied 2 million fans on Facebook. Honda now has more than 250,000 fans (the one-day takeover Oct. 19 more than doubled the number of 63,083 and since then has grown.) The 2 million figure represented how many “connections” — or how many friends its fans collectively have — a very soft metric of social-media success. We were way off and we apologize for the errors.

Me, too.

Honda “Experiment” Tests Shallowness, Vanity

narc Honda Motor Company is running a marketing campaign packaged as a “social experiment.” The cover story is to see how much people “love” Honda automobiles by inviting them to post personal photos and blurbs on the Facebook “social” networking site.

The truth, of course, is that what Honda is really testing is how effectively they can convert people’s petty vanity and sheer programmability into still more irrational brand loyalty.

Have people been falling into this trap?

The results thus far have blown away Mr. Peyton, who felt at the campaign’s onset that “If we got a million connections, that would be cool.” He called the push “a pretty powerful piece of advertising because people are buying into it and we aren’t giving anything away.”

Honda initially supported the site with a sprinkling of ads on Facebook. “It wasn’t a big media buy, but it got a lot of attention,” said Tom Peyton, senior manager-national advertising. Earlier this month, TV was added to the mix, with 15- and 30-second spots featuring actual owners. The commercials were created by Honda’s longtime agency, independent RPA, Santa Monica, which developed the concept. The buy, also handled by RPA, encompasses prime-time programming such as “30 Rock,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Dancing With the Stars” and NFL football.

The campaign got a huge boost after a one-day targeted homepage takeover Oct. 19 on high-reach sites, including ESPN.com, CNN.com and SportsYahoo.com. That more than doubled the number of Facebook fans into the range of 1.7 million. (As of press time Oct. 22, the number had topped 2 million).

Footnote: As of this morning, the number of victims of this campaign is approaching 2.5 million.

Speaking of Clunkers…

clunker Cash for Clunkers is a mega-clunker, as it (very unsurprisingly) turns out.

What kind of MPG leap is the free-money-for-cars gambit yielding? It must be wondrous, right?

Not so much:

Edmunds.com analysts have determined that in May and June, the average fuel efficiency of recently purchased new cars was 21.8 miles per gallon. Since the program launched, the average has jumped to 23.2 mpg, a 6.1 percent improvement.

Wow! Stunning!

And how about the widespread report that the Toyota Corolla is now the #1 seller? Turns out that’s false. The actual bestseller is the Ford Escape SUV, which comes in six sub-models, so gets counted as six different makes, rather than one, in the bogus reports you’re hearing. As Advertising Age explains:

Interestingly, the government’s list of top-10 vehicles sold showed that consumers bought mostly compact cars during the promotion, with the Toyota Corolla in the No. 1 slot. The discrepancy arises because Uncle Sam considers each of the six versions of the Escape (as well as different versions of the trucks) to be a separate model, while Edmunds tallied all Escape-model sales.

The actual top ten models people are choosing with their “Clunkers” trade-ins, according to edmunds.com?

1. Ford Escape — an SUV

2. Ford Focus

3. Jeep Patriot — an SUV

4. Dodge Caliber — an SUV

5. Ford F-150 — a pick-up truck

6. Honda Civic

7. Chevrolet Silverado 1500 — a pick-up truck

8. Chevrolet Cobalt

9. Toyota Corolla

10. Ford Fusion

So, five of the top seven are SUVs or pick-ups.

“Only in America,” as they say…

Passport to Carmageddon

to where?

The Honda Motor Corporation entered this monstrosity in yesterday’s Pasadena Rose Parade. The float, called “Passport to the Future,” is an obvious attempt to reach young minds with the message that SUVs (as well as cars) have a future.

The kids that saw this thing will almost certainly have to explain to their own kids how such amazing forms of distraction were rolled out even as the world crossed the pinnacle of Peak Oil.