Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Media Darling Exit Stage Left - Paint On Hummers Rumbles Off Into The Sunset

The End Of The Ad on Wheels. In its time it was a Hummer

Back in the day the Hummer was eight cylnders of Über Cool. It was big. It was bold. It could run over the competition without having to use its 4-wheel drive.
The Hummer was everything that a family van was not. The Hummer was so bombastic, so American and so out-of-reach for the average consumer that it became a favourite advertising vehicle for film companies, big draw events, radio and television stations alike.
Hot radio show host? New movie comin' to town? New location for the Sgt. Splatter's Paint Ball park? A gaudy design in a vinyl wrap all over a new Hummer was just the ticket. Park it at an event, or simply drive it up and down mainstreet, the decorated Hummer and its drive-by message got noticed.
I helped handle Crane Communications with the PR for the Toronto Home Show in 1999 and arranged with a Toronto TV production company to bring to the Home Show a brand new Hummer, decorated with images from their short-lived Total Recall sci-fi series. Both the car and the TV programme were so new that we had a longer line-up for people wanting to see the Hummer than we did for the fully built, indoor Toronto Star Dream Home (both cost about the same)!
But,as the PR cliche reminds us: "what was hot is not". And, the above photograph of a Pimped Up Hummer bedecked in Teletoon logos and pictures of their popular cartoon characters, is now a record of what used to be. As leases expire across North American, the wildly decorated Hummer has become just another "So Yesterday" in the ever changing world of media PR.
A used Hummer still has drawing power, but, the demand for the $100,000+ gas guzzler dramatically dropped off with the recession of 2008. GM in the midst of its financial meltdown was unable to sell the vehicle line to any other car manufacturer in the world, and production of the civilian version of the Hummer has ended.
Media outlets were typical users of the decorated Hummers and as they phase the rolling billboard out of their PR plans, another great marketing tool drives off to the media junkyard in the skies (probably more likely to the Middle East where there is still a demand for used Hummers).
Their disapperance was (snap your fingers) just like that. The Teletoon Hummer was retired shortly after I took this cell phone picture in the Fall of 2010 at Woofstock in downtown Toronto.
How come? It is all about money and advertising.

"Usually the vehicle would be a contra trade for airtime," explains Radio PR specialist Robb Collis. " Vehicle for one year in exchange for on-air commecials. It would be very unlikely for a station to pay for a vehicle."
"The only exception might be a cash/contra deal (station gives ads and money to get an expensive vehicle)," continued the Toronto media expert. "If we are talking Hummers - this would very likely be a trade - it just dosn't make sense for a station to put up cash for a car that size and price."

Now with the Hummer gone, media outlets are turning to smaller quirky cars to ink-wrap. The The Mini and the box-like Honda Element are now getting bedecked in colourful ads and sent off to Trade Fairs and Shopping Malls across North America.
Interesting? Yes. But a Classic Rock Radio Station plastering images of Led Zeppelin on the sides and back of a dimminuative Smart Car just doesn't Hum the way it used to.


Middle: Sgt Splatter's Paintball Hummer at Monster Jam 2010 - from the company's website
Bottom: US radio station's vinyl shrink wrapped Hummer from www.Skinzwrap.com