Click Here North Star Writers Group
Syndicated Content.
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jessica Vozel
Feature Page
David J. Pollay - The Happiness Answer
Cindy Droog - The Working Mom
The Laughing Chef
Mike Ball - What I've Learned So Far
Bob Batz - Senior Moments
D.F. Krause - Business Ridiculous
D.F. Krause
  D.F.'s Column Archive
May 3, 2006
Ford's Biggest Departure Yet From Reality

I don’t mind publicity stunts. I once talked someone into building a 50-foot burrito to try to get on TV – and it would have worked if some idiot hadn’t decided to do his barricaded-gunman routine at the local high school just as the TV cameras were showing up at my friend’s restaurant.


Barricaded gunmen cause more problems than you realize. But that doesn’t mean publicity stunts can’t be fun and even helpful to your business.


Unfortunately, much of the time people decide to try publicity stunts because it seems easier than making products that – how shall I say this? – people actually want. But even then, it still might work if the stunt is creative and interesting enough.


None of which – creative, interesting, products people actually want – has anything to do with Ford Motor Company and its latest publicity stunt idea. Ford plans to produce its own reality TV show about people designing concept cars.


Now that’s a scintillating idea. A bunch of engineers sitting around talking about what a car might be like. I think I’ll tune in to that as soon as I finish watching Tinkle, the new no-holds-barred look at how leading-edge urinal designers plan to minimize flow misdirection and splash overage in 21st Century men’s rooms.


Rarely will you find a more compelling convergence of concepts and cultures more disconnected from reality than we find here. The so-called reality show – strangers together on an island, strangers racing across the country, housewives ballroom dancing with Mr. Peterman from Seinfeld - has about as much to do with most people’s reality as the Hell’s Angels have to do with Longaberger gift baskets.


But even the people who make “reality” shows are probably more connected to actual reality than most people in the automotive industry, where people speak their own language, run in their own circles, make their own economic rules and never doubt for a second that everyone in America is obsessed with the products they make.


To most people, cars are nice, in some cases even fun. Some of them are kind of cool. But for the most part, cars are utilitarian. They get you from Point A to Point B, hopefully without costing you too much money, sucking up too much gas or making you nauseous in the process. What cars are not is romance. Or adventure. Or your girlfriend. Or a substitute for a substandard body part.


Oh, they are for some people – the ones that leave you looking at your watch all the time when they’re talking to you. But for most people, they’re just cars. You pick the color you like. You pick a style that doesn’t remind you of your Aunt Helga’s breadbin. And you buy it and drive it to the store.


Those steeped in the culture of the auto industry have no idea about any of this. They think everyone in America eats, sleeps and breathes dreamy thoughts about the cars they’re making. So it only makes sense that they would expect us to tune in to watch them making said cars – even as it would make no sense whatsoever for anyone to actually do so.


Look, I respect engineers as much as the next guy, but do you know any? Even if they were reading scripts written by Steven Spielberg, I don’t think they would be very interesting to listen to. What are they going to be like when they’re sitting around expressing their own thoughts? And you, you’re watching it on TV!


Besides, Ford might want to research a few of the popular reality shows before it makes its own. People talking about what a car should be like is not going to cut it. You need one engineer who’s secretly sleeping with Paula Abdul. You need an engineer who comes to work naked every day, and who, needless to say, is very careful how close he gets to some of the equipment in the plant. You need a marketing supervisor who has just swapped mothers with the union shop steward, only to discover that she is loud, foul-mouthed and insufferable. (Fortunately, she only comes to work with him a few times before being named the newest panelist on The View.)


What? You say none of this sounds like it has anything to do with reality? Don’t tell me. Tell Ford. They’re the ones who think you want to watch them making blueprints, talking about torque and screaming at each other about where to put ashtrays.


I’m just trying to warn them. Not enough people have wanted to buy their cars for quite some time. Now they want to show people the process by which they create these cars people don’t want to buy?


Good thing for them, reality is going to work in their favor here. No one will watch.


© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is Column # DFK26. Request permission to publish here.