As a “glass-half-empty” kind of guy, I would need a minute to think about the most fascinating story I’ve ever written, but could easily tell you about the most infuriating. That dubious honor goes to the Facebook launch campaign for the 2012 Ford Explorer.
Starting in June of 2010, Ford released a series of “teaser images” of wilderness or other scenes with an Explorer barely visible. The process went on for roughly a month, and I was responsible for writing blog posts about the new images, which proved to be trying. By the time the 2012 Explorer launched, I was sick of hearing about it, and didn’t care whatsoever about any of the new technologies or improvements.
The Explorer is far from the only car to get this treatment; most notably, the Chevrolet Camaro and Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ underwent this excruciatingly uninteresting method of endless concept cars and leaked details. Other vehicles, like the Dodge Dart get social media soft launches where little teaser photographs are dribbled out bit by bit.
The car companies feel that this builds buzz for the “brand”, but most importantly, it’s great for the auto bloggers. Every new photo or piece of information can generate a new post, which can generate an all-important “click” (see also: Top 10 lists, slideshows, reporting on social unrest and natural disasters). It’s a symbiotic relationship between the OEM and the media that’s unlikely to change, given the dysfunctional economics of blogging, that rewards speed, sensationalism and superficial content (which generate clicks) over the kind of slow, measured, in-depth work that the foundations of real in-depth journalism are built on. The kind of content that takes time and money to produce, bores many readers because it’s over 800 words long and often gets displaced in the article hierarchy because a new Toyonda Camcord Juicy Couture Special Edition was released and if we’re not first at re-hashing the press release and stock photos, we’ll be rendered irrelevant. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a new Ferrari teaser photo to write about.