Hybrids, Hollywood and hype?

I don’t know what to make of this story How hybrids took over Hollywood which claims that the is only the hybrid car of choice among A list celebrities because of the actions of the

The well-connected, non-profit organisation claims a global remit to “educate people about environmental issues and inspire them into action” – with a key strategy of using the influence of “the entire entertainment community.”

Toyota Motor Sales USA has been a presenting sponsor of the EMA Awards for several years, so the relationship between the two organisations is overt and clearly commercial. 

But the Fortune magazine story has been picked up as showing the “secret” power of the EMA and Toyota’s ““.  Is this just a good relationship building strategy to raise the profile and understanding of celebrities about the company’s vehicles?  Or are celebrities actually so easily bought and influenced?

UK reports were that Toyota was surprised by the popularity of the Prius.  My own impression was that celebrities were keen for the positive “green” associations of driving the car.   Somehow, the popularity of the Prius with the likes of and Julia Roberts seems a little less genuine or credible if it has been manipulated by EMA. 

Is that fair?  It is not unusual for motor industry PR practitioners to work with celebrities  by offering loan vehicles, roadtests, or discount deals.  Does anyone actually believe  celebrities are really concerned about the environment just because they drive hybrids and carbon offset their extravagant globe-trotting lifestyles?

Undoubtedly public recognition of the Prius has been enhanced by the celebrity links – but it has to stand ultimately on its own environmental and motoring credentials

Having worked for Toyota myself in the 1990s, I believe the company is committed to its environmental values (with a strategy of a full hybrid fleet by 2020).  However, a negative impression is being created by some of the marketing activities, such as the criticised adverts for the Lexus RX400 hybrid.

But has become big business – if it isn’t something of an .  Not least if marketing is seen to be exploiting genuine concerns:

“Green is green as in the color of money,” said Judy Hu, global executive director of advertising and branding at General Electric. “It is about a business opportunity, and we believe we can increase our revenue behind these Ecomagination products and services.”

When marketing, and presumably many CEOs, simply equate with gullible and see the environment only in terms of the immediate bottom line, we cannot be surprised when all companies are criticised. 

Personally, I believe that true, value-driven, commitment to communicating the environmental credentials and responsibilities of a company – without the usual marketing manipulation and hyperbole – is necessary to avoid a cynical public backlash. 

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

2 thoughts on “Hybrids, Hollywood and hype?”

  1. Heather:

    “Personally, I believe that true, value-driven, commitment to communicating the environmental credentials and responsibilities of a company – without the usual marketing manipulation and hyperbole – is necessary to avoid a cynical public backlash.”

    I agree but I don’t expect anything to change: for companies and marketeers the environment is too important a factor not to exploit to the limit and beyond. I imagine they will live with the risk of a backlash because some will have gained before any backlash.

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