Facebook isn’t just a hotbed of meaningless virtue signaling, thinly veiled racism, political rants, and overly serious arguments with people you haven’t seen in several years. It’s also a great place for advertisers to spend their money — at least, that’s what the platform wants automobile manufacturers to believe. The social media site is trying to establish closer ties with the industry, and went so far as to send COO Sheryl Sandberg to Detroit to host the first Facebook Automotive Summit in five years.
However, if you’re anything like me, your feed is probably already clogged up with car ads. This morning’s limited browsing yielded placements for Jaguar and Genesis before asking me when I last drove a Hyundai. Facebook thinks it can do more, targeting the subset of its 2 billion users which could benefit automakers the most. While the website has stepped up its game, future ad investments will still suffer from runoff to zero-engagement click farms in countries like India, Egypt, and Brazil.
A large company might deem those losses acceptable, but does it really matter when so few people buy new cars online?
The internet is infamous for suspect news stories and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to separate reputable information from propaganda, lies, and sensationalist garbage. Credible outlets take heat as #FakeNews while less stringent journalism continues to gain traction. The automotive industry is no different, especially when it comes to online marketing.
We’ve all been cruising the internet mindlessly and seen a suspicious headline for a new car paired with a blatantly fake image. I remember seeing photoshopped fifth generation Camaros purported to be “The Next Firebird” routinely for about a year before Pontiac finally passed away in 2010. While I knew it was bunk, I clicked anyway and compounded the problem. Sadly, things have not improved in the last few years.
Dealers and manufacturers are trying to figure out a way to ensure their products are better represented in the digital landscape — but they are struggling.
Remember when we didn’t know what the word “hashtag” meant? Gosh, that was nice. I recall reading one of Jack’s fiction pieces in 2012 (did I mention that Sunday Stories are coming back this weekend! YASSSS! Thank you, readers! #MakeFictionGreatAgain damn it I just used a hashtag) that was laden with hashtags and thinking, “Christ, I’m glad I have no idea what that was all about.”
Of course, it’s now 2016, and I’m busy adding #fordperformance #fordfocusrs #fors #nitrousblue to every single picture I post on Instagram in the hopes that some 15-year-old hot hatch enthusiast will get bored in study hall, find my picture, and give me the highly sought-after “like,” or, if I’m really lucky, a “follow.”
I think we can all agree this is pathetic behavior, yet everybody in the game does it. I’m not as bad as some — my social media pages are designed more to inflame the opposition than inspire loyalty — but we’re all driven to play this silly game by the OEMs, who have universally decided that having 10,000 Instagram followers means you get to have press cars delivered to your door, regardless if you have any knowledge of or about the industry.
When a self-described automotive journalist attempts a fuel economy record, you expect his attempt to be objective — or, at least, as objective as such an attempt can be.
However, when an automaker is willing to pay that automotive journalist thousands of dollars for the effort, with payment possibly dependent on achieving the desired record, objectivity falls by the wayside and, along with it, the credibility of someone believed to be a hero in high-fuel-efficiency circles.
Wayne Gerdes, if you aren’t familiar, owns a website called CleanMPG.com. It’s a forum dedicated to those squeezing every bit of fuel efficiency possible from their vehicles — also known as “hypermiling.”
Automotive journalist Gerdes set two records — in 2013 and 2015 — using Volkswagen TDI Clean Diesels. In doing so, the journalist lined his pockets with Volkswagen’s marketing cash.
Forbes reported that American Honda and Acura are effectively finding owners of potentially defective Takata airbags through social media and rolling billboards plastered on their trucks.
The automaker, who has been particularly aggressive in finding and recalling its cars with defective airbags, is pushing messages to potential owners in their Facebook feed. The automaker may be matching Vehicle Identification Numbers obtained from state agencies with names and locations in Facebook.
Businesses aren’t the only groups of people who try to influence what we publish here. TTAC has been getting emails from a number of people who put deposits down on the yet-to-be-produced Elio trike, only to become disillusioned after production has been pushed back a number of times.
There are at least a couple of Facebook pages devoted to disaffected Elio enthusiasts that accuse Elio Motors and Paul Elio of misleading people. In addition to the delays, most of the complaints seem to center around the fact that the company is promoting and taking deposits for a $6,800 vehicle when Elio hasn’t yet raised enough money to start production of a car that Paul Elio admits doesn’t yet meet their advertised price point.
The company has been using social media to promote the enterprise and its critics have seized on Elio Motors’ Facebook page as a venue to express their displeasure. Words like “liars” and “scam ” have been tossed around. Consequently, a number of those critics say they have been banned from that page by Elio Motors.
TTAC commentator M0L0TOV has an update for us:
I figured I’d send you an update so people would know what happened to my situation. Well, I went ahead and tried to contact AAMCO. First I tried contacting them via their website but almost a week had passed and no response. So I contact them via their Facebook page, the next day I got a response with a phone number, name, and e-mail address of somebody at corporate to contact. I sent them an e-mail, I got a call from the owner of the Aamco where I had originally taken my car within ten minutes.
As a first-rate cynic and an enthusiast of the English language, I reflexively cringe when I hear the latest “CBC buzzwords” (CBC is Canada’s version of NPR) that get thrown around by the sort of people who think that bicycles will eventually replace cars as our main mode of transportation in our future communitarian-utopia of urban living.
You may have heard them before; words like “vibrant”, “sustainable” or “diverse” inevitably always used as a positive adjective regarding one’s proximity to a farmer’s market or yoga studio. Describing oneself as a “storyteller” when one’s employment situation is murky at best. Describing any commodity good as “artisinal”. This is what I call “word torture”, and if George Carlin were still alive, he’d have a field day.
Imagine my horror when I logged on to the website for the latest installment of Ford’s Fiesta movement and saw it was chock-full of these nebulous descriptors. I nearly had to go back and read one of TTAC’s “Volts on Fire” stories just to calm my rapidly rising blood pressure.
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time: in the wake of a national event that has a lot of people looking for a legislative solution, start a Facebook page which ostensibly calls for the banning of another controversial piece of machinery. As Generalfeldmarschall von Moltke once wrote, however, no plan survives the first contact with the enemy.
Within a week of starting at TTAC, I’d learned to acclimatise myself to Bertel’s management style; our morning phone calls turned into one-hour mini lectures on various facets of the industry, touching on sales, marketing, engineering, product development and some of the more arcane subjects of the business (including some that aren’t repeatable here). One of the maxims that Bertel hammered in to me was to look past the cars. “It’s always about the people,” is one of his guiding principles. I’m infinitely fortunate to have not just Bertel, but the other editors and contributors to help provide context and fill in the gaps, but one of the biggest influences is a name you won’t see on our masthead.
Bloomberg is reporting that General Motors and Facebook are talking again, in an attempt to get GM to resume advertising on the social network. Meetings between GM CEO Dan Akerson and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg were being reported.
Advertising Age, the industry rag read by Mad Men worldwide, found a simple reason for GM first unfriending Facebook, followed by a much bigger whopper, a “No thanks” to Super Bowl advertising. Ad Age says the decision is driven by the simple need to save money.
Even as GM abandons Facebook advertising because of a poor ROI, Ford is going full steam ahead with Facebook spending and including more “sponsored stories” – i.e. cheesy advertorial content – as part of their “accelerated” spending. The problem is that it doesn’t work.
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- Dukeisduke Sixty-five miles of range added in ten minutes? Doesn't sound very impressive.Also, how are they going to build these in volume if GM is building Ultium packs by hand (which they have been, slowly)? Or are the packs coming from Korea?
- Dave M. On one hand Honda tends to make a strong, competitive product that should give you years of excellent service. On the other hand it's built on the bones of a GM product, who has a tendency to underbake their products until right before cancellation. NUMMI worked out well for GM; I wonder if this will work out well for Honda....
- RICHARD @mebgardner I have no issues with the way the car is configured. No offensive nannies.
- RICHARD @el_scotto above
- RICHARD @SPPP. It's the perfect use case. Most of my wife's driving is short trips around town. The car will get better MPG in that environment than interstate cruising.