I’ll admit it, I’m a car-a-holic. I place the blame squarely on my dad, who before I could read, let me flip through the pages of his copy of CAR magazine. I read the publication monthly, even now. But times are a changing, well, more that they have already changed.
It used to be that someone learnt to be a journalist, studied hard, earned qualifications and then achieved a career as an automotive reviewer. I would pay to buy those experienced expert opinions, quite happily. The good stuff, a considered view. Luscious photography matched with the best opinions, good or bad.
Then the internet changed things. I still don’t believe the traditional car magazine publications have successfully found a way to make a living from paying journalists and surviving only on the internet. They all still live off print revenue, no matter how many hits they receive to their website.
While the print industry still flounders about, a new form of car reviewer has appeared in the online space and stolen the limelight. We call them social media influencers.
Queen of the online influencer world is Zoella, with her makeup pick ups and tips. As her audience grew, so did the payments, initially from YouTube ad revenue. But now she is a brand. Large companies are queueing up to pay for product placement in her videos and make her the face of their next new product.
The same is true in car land. The number one champion of this is Shmee150. He started out by walking around the streets of London and filming himself looking at nice cars parked up or driving by. You have to admit, filming yourself swooning over someone else’s Lamborghini and marvelling at the paint job isn’t exactly a sound business idea. But boy has it paid off.
As things snowballed, his reactions to posh cars grew into visiting car shows and then, when the revenue was enough, purchasing flashy cars himself. All the time using his trusty Sony camcorder to take videos from a selfie perspective. Things moved on again, with driving videos and more opinions of what it is like to experience the cars from the inside as well as admiring from the outside.
Now, he has a new Ford GT, McLaren 675LT Roadster, Aston-Martin Vantage GT8 and Mercedes-Benz AMG GT R on order. That’s a lot of money and also a lot more video content to come.
But, more than that, Shmee150 is now invited to car launches, to drive pre-production prototypes and blog about them. His videos don’t rely on a massive amount of extraordinary production time, unlike a TV feature and nor does he need to finely craft 5000 words on the benefits of the extra large boot in the Ford Focus C-Max. Just his ‘wow’ moments and quick-fire positive impressions are enough to guide him to 800,000 YouTube subscribers.
To give you an example, he was invited to the Alfa Romeo launch in Italy, for their new model, the Giulia. The most important new car for Alfa Romeo in over a decade and one of the invited people was a YouTube influencer. His video of the day currently sits at 928,000 views. Now tell me, what is more important, a generally positive critique in a magazine a month later, or a next-day positive preview that hits 900,000 views?
Not only that, the most popular age bracket for YouTube visitors is 25-34. A marketing dream ticket. Adding in Shmee’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts, it is said that he gains 7 new followers every minute. Car manufacturers should be clamouring all over him. Those that aren’t, soon will be.
The world of online car marketing has changed, the fans are now in control. So long as it is clear that trips are being paid for by car companies and his views don’t get mired in paid promotions, that trend is set to continue.
Welcome to the YouTube generation of automotive marketing.
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