more on that at the end…
So yesterday, I spent a full day walking around and being schmoozed by various auto manufacturers during media day at the Cdn. International Autoshow which opens to the public tomorrow. Being that I come at this from a PR/marketing/auto racing point of view, I was there specifically looking for a presence of all of the above from the various manufacturers involved in the sport, specifically those involved in/with or supporting Canadian events and drivers. I was disappointed and underwhelmed.
Now it was pointed out to me this afternoon by a colleague that this is a “consumer show”. Well, the last time I checked “consumers” also go to, watch and enjoy racing. They often times support specific manufacturers teams, so why wouldn’t the manufacturers take a moment, and a corner of their booth, to promote and applaud their efforts in the industry and point out how the research done on a racing level is applied to their “consumer” cars?
Those who did have race cars or a racing presence as part of their displays:
Audi (racecar & video of racing footage on giant screens over display) A+
Mercedes Benz (swag/diecasts) (nothing however on Canadian Bruno Spengler so they get a fail)
Toyota (Lexus) (car)
Hyundai (who are actually entering racing this year! more on that later)
Nissan (Datsun racecar)(cool!)
Subaru (racecar and AWESOME Signage!) A++
Mitsubishi (no car, but large wall with photos and a groovy computer screen that you touch and the rally car morphs into the consumer car) A
Corvette has a large display of the car through the years, and there are 4 Indy 500 pace cars. (all owned by Ontario residents! LOL!)
Oh ya, and Honda has the Indy show car for Toronto Race, but that’s it. B
(more on the Honda thing later)
Big FAIL’s in their promotion of their race presence (and thus the biggest disappointments)
Ford. Zero cars/mentions/pictures.
Mazda! Nothing, nada, zip, zilch. Ridiculous considering you have the championship winning Star Mazda team’s shop about 15 mins away from the show, who would gladly have loaned the winning car to display, not to mention the fact that Star Mazda and Atlantics (Mazda powered) are both coming to Mosport this summer. With the size of their exhibit space, they should have had some sort of race related display. No excuses.
Overall, the day was well set up and executed. We were herded from booth to booth and shuttled around from door to door, kept fed and watered the entire time, and our day was concluded with wine/beer and cheese & crackers. I saw some really interesting vehicles, met some interesting people, got some fun and creative media kits ideas, had one of the tastiest tuna sandwiches ever (I’m dead serious!) and fantasized about which car I would actually buy were I ever in the position to do so. (I’ve gotta say, the new Ford Fiesta caught my eye in a big way!)
Back to Hyundai.
Riding the high of their Genesis winning best new luxury vehicle and North American Car of the year, Hyundai unveiled the coupe version and then revealed plans to enter racing with a souped up version of the Genesis Coupe. The funny part of course is that all of the cars that are being unveiled are under a satiny tarp on media day, and you (the media) make the rounds on a specific schedule. We were about to head up to the other levels early when we walked past the Hyundai booth and saw the two cars under wraps. I looked at the one and remarked to partner in crime for the day, Mike Sullivan from Race Canada, that the one car had some serious rear wing/spoiler action going on under that sheet. Since I doubted highly that Hyundai was going to unveil a ricer on media day, I suggested that we were about to be introduced to a race car of some sort. I’m telling you, we were giddy when the announcement finally came! The team will be running in the Canadian Touring Car Championship in conjunction with and to raise money for several children’s charities. There are a few details on the website www.lapsforkids.ca, which will officially launch in a few weeks.
And now… to the rant that was diverted…
When I got home last night, I was pretty fired up, but also pretty exhausted. I had other things I had to work on, so I delayed writing this particular blog entry.
When I woke up this morning, I was tired, and a bit grumpy. I fired off a brief but pointed email to my buddy Jeff Atkinson who does ticket and hospitality sales for the Toronto Race. He is one of two people from the previous incarnations of the race that are now part of the AGR team. He is the ONLY one who has been gracious enough to be available and answer questions and provide details, and do so in a timely fashion. I made it clear that my frustration wasn’t aimed at him in any way, but that I was extremely disappointed with the way the “powers that be” were handling the resurrection of my home race.
Mid-morning something happened that turned grumpy Meesh into seething with a piss and vinegar attitude and ready to tear someone a new asshole Meesh. That’s not the Meesh you want writing about your product, your team, your anything… trust me.
As I was preparing to unleash my rage on my keyboard, my phone rang. It was Jeff. He wanted to give me some one on one personal attention and try to provide some answers/explanations with regards to my concerns.
Now kids, if any of you work in marketing/sales/customer relations, listen up: THIS is public relations 101. It’s the simplest solution to most problems, yet the hardest thing to convey to businesses and their staff.
You know how the Grinch’s heart grows 10 sizes that day? Well, ya. By the end of the phone call (a good half hr when all was said and done) I was at the head of the table carving the roast beast.
Now Jeff is a smart boy. He didn’t spend that time merely placating me. (I don’t respond well to that at ALL as you can well imagine) He listened to my concerns, provided answers/explanations where he could without making excuses or phoney apologies, and took my suggestions and comments to heart. I know Jeff, and I know he is sincere when he says “I completely agree” or “I will pass that along”.
He is very good at his job, and realizes that as both a passionate fan, and someone who is very vocal in several mediums, that taking time out of his day to put out the fire before it spreads is the wisest course of action. He did so with respect and without “handling” me. Kudos my friend. AGR doesn’t know how lucky they are to have you.
So out of respect for Jeff and in appreciation of our conversation (much of which was off the record, sorry folks) I will not be unleashing the wrath of Meesh on the unsuspecting public this evening. I had most of my Autoshow related concerns answered to and was provided an interesting and different perspective (from the inside) to my marketing of the race related concerns. While not completely convinced yet, I am cautiously optimistic that my race will not be a giant clusterfuck (that’s for you Johnny 😉 )
I will be returning to the show a few more times. (tomorrow night as it’s the opening for the public) and of course on the 18th to cover Princess Danica’s autograph session. As much as I will hate it, I will have to put my personal feelings aside and put on my professional hat to cover it for the site.
Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, the pictures of the Honda Indy Toronto booth labeled “sad” are what the booth looked like in the morning. By the time we left that night, it was set up fully, and had much more curb appeal. This in no way excuses the sorry assed state of it earlier in the day. Considering this was/is the very first public presence of anything marketing the race, and that there were hundreds of local media gathered right beside it that morning, it was a horrendously bad first impression and huge opportunity missed in my opinion.
Anyway, I’m tired of typing! Here is the link to a small picture gallery. I will add to it after each visit to the show. (hey, I’m conveniently unemployed and have a media pass, might as well pass the time doing something fun like taking pictures of cars right!?)