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Autoextremist "Motor Trend Rant"

27 October 1999


                Motor Trend's "Car Of The Year," Or, Do We Have A Marketing
                Opportunity For You!

                Reprinted with the blessings( well maybe not the blessing but permission)
                of the author Peter M. DeLorenzo, Autoextremist

                In one of my previous advertising lives, I had the perverse pleasure
                of witnessing the Motor Trend "Car Of The Year" scam first hand. I'm
                hearing groans from our readers…you're shaking and shuddering and
                you just can't believe it? No, tell us it's not true! You can't
                possibly mean that the awards are, at best, dubious? Yes, my friends,
                Motor Trend's "COTY" (car company ad agencies learn to absolutely
                despise those initials and everything they stand for) is one
                of the most brilliantly consieved marketing schemes of all time.
                Petersen Publishing, the publishing juggernaut behind Motor Trend's
                COTY, has cajoled, bartered, badgered and threatened their way
                in to the hearts and minds of the(primarily) domestic car companies,
                to the point that I've seen"powerful" (allegedly-ed.) auto
                company executives literally begging for their consideration.
                First of all, you should understand one thing about Motor Trend's COTY:
                It's not about the "best" car. It has never been about the
                "best"car. It's about what car company will come up with the best media
                spending package that suits their interest in selling cars and that
                suits Motor Trend's interest in selling magazines and making money.
                And anyone who insists differently is either dreaming or a liar. But
                as outrageous as that may sound,here's the best part: Imagine
                having to literally grovel before the feet of the Peterson brass to
                first even be considered for this"award." And what do the car
                companies get for their multi-million dollar commitment to
                Motor Trend's COTY? Car companies and their agencies must first
                present their marketing plans for promoting their victory should
                their car be fortunate enough to be chosen. Huh? Yes, that's right.

                I remember having to drop everything in the fall of '86 and turn my
                creative staff's full attention to developing TV commercial animatics,
                magazine ads, billboards and associated dealer versions of the
                creative work in a rush presentation to the people from
                Peteresen Publishing, that was to be held at Chrysler's headquarters.
                All for a bad K-car derivative that didn't even deserve to be "Rental
                Car Of The Year." (Remember, this was the old Chrysler, when they
                were still living off the K-car).

                We spent two full weeks (and tens of thousands of dollars) coming up with the creative package all for
                the privilege of "pleasing" the Petersen brain-trust so that they
                may deem Dodge worthy of their accolade. Witnessing Dodge
                executives falling all over themselves and sucking-up to the
                Petersen people in the meeting was one of the most disturbing things
                I've ever witnessed in my 22-1/2-year ad career.

                If you still had any shred of doubt about what really makes the world go around in
                Detroit, in the car biz, it was over at that moment. But then
                again, that was just the first step in the process. After the
                "creative" was presented (ask any agency creative person about
                working on MT's COTY - they'd rather spend a week at a med school
                as a volunteer patient for the proctology final exams, then work
                on that drivel), we turned it over to the media gurus from the agency.
                They got up to present their"ideas" (complete with overheads of
                course) to best market the COTY. It was a detailed plan of national
                magazine inserts, regular print ads, billboards, tv and of course,
                a staggering commitment to advertising in Petersen Publishing
                vehicles across the board. 
                Ladies and gentlemen, it was a total advertising package worth $25 million dollars. Whether it's
                future credits or trades or however you package it, that's a lot of
                money, folks. Wait, we're not finished. Not only do you have the
                privilege of handing over truck loads of cash to the Petersen
                coffers, but then they will tell you how their logo must appear,
                including final sign off on the ads. The creative department of the
                winning car company's ad agency is handed a three-page list of
                "guidelines" on how Motor Trend and COTY must appear in everything. It
                must be worded in a very specific way and that ugly-ass caliper
                "trophy" must appear in absolutely everything. The whole episode is so
                disgusting, by the end of the process you want to go home and
                take a shower for a week.

                Why am I writing about this now? Well, at this very moment, the wheels of commerce are starting to churn.
                Whispers in the hallways of car companies are turning into whispers
                in the hallways of their agencies, as we speak. And some poor agency
                creative group is about to be handed the assignment they dread
                the most with these instructions from the client and the account
                team: Make it good. Make it like we're proud. Make it like we mean
                it. Make it a very big deal. We want your best people on it. Don't
                screw it up. So when you see the releases in the press and then see
                the actual ads in the coming months, remember these very important things: 
                There's nothing good about it. There's nothing to be proud of.
                Mean it? Are you kidding me? In terms of financialcommitment,
                it is a very big"deal." People were forced to work on it.
                And yes, the "winning" car company (and their ad agency) got

Publishers Note:Unlike the print boys and girls at Petersen we at The Auto Channel continue to hold fast to unabashed independence in the awarding of The Auto Channel's COTY choices (we at TACH call our awards The Golden Tachometer or Goldies so much so that the our co-publisher cannot vote because he does not qualify as an honest to goodness expert.