The car manufacturers are out of control. I’m referring to the use of “teasers,” an advertising phenomenon that, as far as I know, began with movie trailers. In a teaser, you’re given no actual information but are shown a supposedly enticing bit of imagery to elicit curiosity about the product.
Here’s an example, for Prometheus, the movie they won’t admit is the Alien prequel.
Now, I have no complaints about this method of advertising in the context of movies. Often, I would prefer that a teaser be the only thing they release prior to a movie’s debut. Particularly with reboots such as Star Trek (2009) and the upcoming The Amazing Spider-man, where there is absolutely no reason to believe that potential viewers have any questions regarding the subject. What can your long form trailer possibly tell me about Spider-man that I don’t already know from watching the three other movies about him that just came out, like, a week ago? Hell, I could probably piece together the origin story just from the trailers that circulated so heavily regarding those movies, even if I didn’t see any of them.
All I need from the The Amazing Spider-man trailer is a look at new Peter Parker’s face, a snippet of him talking to verify that he doesn’t have a ridiculous English accent or something,
and a hint at who the major villain will be. There is no possible information you could give me that would change my decision whether to watch the movie at this point. If I don’t want to see another Spider-man movie this year, I won’t watch your movie regardless of what you say. If I’m interested, then job done! You can’t make me more interested by giving more of the movie away ahead of time.
In the auto industry, things are generally the exact opposite. A new car is a very different product from a new movie. There are fewer types of cars to choose from than there are movies, the experience lasts much longer, and I will make fewer car purchases than movie purchases over time (for the sake of comparison, I am “purchasing” a movie by watching it). As such, the advertising environment with cars should be less cluttered. I have no idea how to get the actual statistic without hours of painful counting, so I’m going to fabricate the statement that 98% of the “new” cars announced each year are actually just continuations of existing models. So most of any given “new product announcement” is really just a reminder that the product exists.
In defiance of this, more automakers are becoming infatuated with the idea of marketing cars like movies and releasing ridiculous “teasers” regarding new models. These clutter up my newsfeeds and, since I follow more than one source of car information and EVERY ONE has to automatically parrot forth every press release they’re given lest they be thought to have missed something, useless “teasers” now form about a quarter of the car-related news items I see.
Sometimes it’s forgivable. Fisker’s Project Nina, teased as little more than a scribble, is an entire new vehicle that has never existed before. You can’t blow the story before the official press event, but you do want journalists to know there’s something to see, so they will turn up at your press event.
Also, the Scion FR-S aka Subaru BRZ aka Toyota GT 86 (you get three peel-and-stick badges when you buy the car, call it what you want) was an unusual case in that it represented a major philosophical turn for Toyota, and the actual design of the car significantly changed over time, partly due to the public response to auto show prototypes. That’s how you build anticipation for a forthcoming vehicle.
On the other hand, here’s how Nissan decided to reveal the “new” Altima. This is a car that is selling over 100,000 units a year. Last March, it became the best-selling sedan in America. It is EVERYWHERE. No one is surprised to see that they’re making it again next year. Does Nissan really think we believe they’re going to gamble their current position by radically changing the Altima in any meaningful way? Teasing the Altima is the most absurdly self-congratulatory act of marketing hubris since Audi’s famous obfuscation of a major Russian landmark in a photo shoot. (Famous, as in they joked about it incessantly on Top Gear, but I can’t seem to find the item in question on Google to show you.)
Also, we’ve already seen the entire car from multiple angles and been advised that it will fail to keep up with current trends in family sedan engine choices. Nissan: Resisting Innovation. Just sit quietly until Renault feeds you your next big idea, guys. I don’t need closeups of your turn signals.
Not to be outdone, GM is now teasing the new Impala. Teasing. Impala. Bear in mind, this is a car so boring that it was singled out in Drive as the perfect getaway car.
[note-I don’t think this is strictly true, but hey, it’s a movie] “No one will be looking at you.”
That’s the media presence the Impala has. Perfect anonymity. The most excited people get about an Impala is when they see them completely transformed in NASCAR, which is like getting excited about seeing scientists because you like The Incredible Hulk.
You are holding NO cards, GM. You can’t bluff with no cards. The best you can do is to lay your case bare and let us find our own way to get interested.
The news about a “new” car IS the car. If you’re not ready to tell me everything about the car, then you have nothing to say that I need to hear.