Celebs at the Range Rover Sport launch included Jade Jagger, Zara Philips and Yasmin Le Bon
Award for the most cleverly orchestrated hype this week has gotta go to Tata Motors' Land Rover which unveiled its long-awaited Range Rover Sport in New York this week, a superb case study of how much the method of launching new cars has changed in the digital age.
With some unoffical 'accidentally' leaked preview photos having already gone viral to stir up advance interest (seriously, they had to wait to send one out to a local shop to get window tinting done in the US when it could have been done away from prying eyes before the vehicles were shipped from the UK?), the automaker then managed to get Authority to shut down a chunk of downtown New York City for actor Daniel Craig's 007 to drive the new Sport to the star-studded launch party. Which was duly covered second by second by global media - present or not - and a vast army of social media-engaged Range Rover fans and assorted celebs.
For those at JLR who contrived all this, take a bow. I doubt there's now anyone on the planet with an interest in cars who doesn't know the new Sport is out - and anyone who wanted to could take a virtual seat at the global reveal courtesy of the world wide interweb.
Journalists? Well, these days the relatively few A-listers from top global magazines and websites invited to such a global reveal are relative bit players in a supporting role. Some of the specialist magazines had been given a pre-launch drive and comprehensive technical details went live at the time of reveal so, as the event unfolded and the big SUV made its first offical appearance, they could publish an exclusive 'first ride' story and supporting features on their websites while also reporting and tweeting live from the event. Along with every other attendee with a smartphone and a Twitter, Facebook, Vine, etc account.
All this meant that, no matter what the consumer's level of interest, a ton of information was out there within minutes of the Sport appearing on stage.
For automakers, or anyone with a new product to push, it's a long way from a decade or three ago when they were largely reliant on the individual prejudices of newspaper and magazine journalists, and the odd TV or radio report, to get the message out, supported by print, radio and TV advertising. Now, you can get half the audience at a launch event to tell your story - enthusiastically - for free, via social media. And you can target your supporting advertising much more precisely rather than the scattergun approach of old fashioned conventional print and broadcast media. The times, they sure have changed. And it's fascinating to observe.
Apart from the Second Coming of the RR Sport, New York also saw a new Jeep Cherokee with a ton of Fiat influence, especially inside, Audi's A3 sedan (better suited to markets like North America and China which don't like hatchbacks as much as we do in western Europe), a new Kia Soul (which looked to me in the photos much like the old one) and the electric Merc B-class. The US is the biggest market for the Sport and the global launch there of the B-class EV, due on sale next year, also makes sense as electric cars do well there, especially in receptive states like California where an EV recharge point is almost as easy to find as a McDonalds and you get to use the car pool lanes one-up.
We're off on a four-day extended break for Easter. Enjoy your weekend.
Graeme Roberts, Deputy Editor, just-auto.com