Is it better to received a well acknowledged award or do car companies just want to fill their trophy case?
We're heading towards the tail end of the automotive awards season and there are some brands out there looking very smug. They've collected an armful of trophies and titles to the point where their marketing teams may run out of space to run acknowledgements in their ads.
Imagine the headline "The Hyper-special family sedan by Company X" and then in small print "winner of Car-Of-The-Year for Boy Toy mag, Seond Gear mag, Caravans Daily mag, Dog Lover mag, Manualcar mag as well as Best Ad campaign in Ad Campaign mag, Best Car PR Agency in IndieCars mag and Best Door Gifts by FakeMedia & Co".
It sounds ridiculous but car companies and brand owners care about the recognition they receive regardless of how made up it sometimes sounds. Why? Because everybody wants a nice year-end performance review to tick off the KPI list. It's much easier for marketing and PR folk to say they've done a good job when there's a shiny bit of tatty acrylic stashed in the office trophy case.
You can't really blame the car companies. In a tough sales environment where committed volumes are like anvils around their necks, every single opportunity should be maximised. So if they want to shout about receiving the award for "Best Mommy Taxi", they should. The problem occurs when publications pander to their needs and wants.
The car industry and the media reporting on it share a symbiotic relationship. If you're a popular publication the industry wants you're market reach and you in turn want their advertising dollars. In a perfect world, editorial integrity and ad space have nothing to do with each other but that's obviously some utopian situation dreamt up by people with no sense and even less money.
It's something that gets amplified during awards season. Nobody will admit to it openly but it's almost too easy to see the "I scratch your back and you scratch mine" transactions occurring in front of our very noses. There are many examples where an inferior car won over a superior one and you only need to look at the cover buys, ad inserts and specials the winner has paid for over the last 12 months for the reason why.
Collectively then, it makes the awards a joke because what started out as giving recognition to the very best degenerates into a mutual appreciation session where everybody gets a gold star for being there. Are we in kindergarten? In any competition, there will always be winners and those who don't win. If a car doesn't win it's by no means crap because it just means there is a better one out there. Live with it.
Don't think the car companies won't throw their toys out either. RSVPs for events these days come with a 'will we win anything?' clause. If they're not winning then the motivation to attend is considerably less, so it becomes a vicious circle of creating new awards to make everyone happy and when that happens, nobody will take the awards seriously because when everyone wins, everyone also loses.