TheInsider

PEDDLING INFLUENCE

WE ALL KNOW THAT CRITICISM CAN BE HARD TO TAKE, ESPECIALLY IN THIS AGE OF ‘GENERATION SNOWFLAKE’. BUT IT’S NOT JUST ANGST-RIDDEN MILLENNIALS LOOKING TO ‘SAFE SPACE’ THEMSELVES AWAY FROM HARD TRUTHS – THE CAR INDUSTRY IS ALSO GETTING INCREASINGLY ADEPT AT SWERVING UNWANTED ANALYSIS.

N Manufacturers want coverage more than ever, blinkers. Gain access to some of the carefully lowefully Manufacturers want coverage more than ever, but they’re less keen on the sort of scrutiny that will slot their products into a hierarchy of rivals.

You know, the exact thing that magazines like this one do. Why let grubby journos drive a car if there’s a chance they might not think it’s the best thing ever? It’s not like there’s a shortage of alternatives… Enter the ‘influencer’ – those web-based personalities with substantial followings, who can often be co-opted into delivering the sort of hagiographic guff that the marketing department might reckon was a bit OTT. Car makers – especially those trying to flog top-end product – are taking them increasingly seriously, often dispatching them on the same launches as old-fashioned media, sometimes even giving them earlier or better access.

Smelling vinegar? This isn’t just – some influencers are indeed proper leveraging their prominence to produce content. Chris Harris, the former who segued his self-funded YouTube a gig presenting Top Gear TV in the t sour grapes per journos, oduce unique magazine journo be channel into e UK is probably the best example. Harris was banned back in 2011 for criticising the brand win every comparo at any cost, so no yes man.

But others are nothing more than with followings. Like, for example, real name Tim Burton, a well-spoken chap who started out filming other supercars before starting his own ‘Shmeemobiles’, including a McLaren His exploits have earned his YouTube a million followers, but you’ll watch for any insight beyond the fact he love everything.

Real supercar buyers definitely ned by Ferrari and for trying to he’s certainly n fanboys , Shmee150, ken English r people’s collection of aren 675LT. ube channel ch it in vain seems to don’t wear blinkers. Gain access to some of the carefully guarded forums where McLaren or Ferrari owners compare notes and you’ll find a full and often forthright discussion of faults and foibles – views that are often in stark contrast to the official line. But influencers don’t dig dirt, their place at the table is based on the strict understanding that they will deliver the sort of criticism-free content that manufacturers crave.

As a senior PR for a luxury brand recently put it, “the question from the board member is never ‘why haven’t I seen it in Magazine X?’, but ‘why haven’t my kids seen it on Instagram?’”

The ambition is buzz or hype rather than critical analysis, with influencers and lowefully ari grade celebrities co-opted to help deliver it, often through the sort of posts that are big on #livingthedream type hashtags. While the full reckoning will come, journos are persistent buggers and we’ll usually get to wrangle both drives and proper comparos eventually. But it’s worth remembering that hype can be bought, as well as earned.

The ambition is buzz or hype rather than critical analysis, with ‘infl uencers’ co-opted to deliver it

Eco-hype boosted V6

The Ford GT is probably the best example of a car that’s been created to harvest online buzz, to the extent that potential buyers have had their social media following assessed before being allowed to buy one. The offi cial logic is that, as a halo product, the GT has to refl ect some much-needed glory on the rest of the Ford range. A more cynical take is that, as a car being sold with a substantial price premium over some very distinguished rivals and packing a reworked Ecoboost V6 where most supercars have two, four or six more cylinders, it needs all the hype it can get.