An article over at Ad Age brings up an angle on the whole auto industry bailout probably not considered much before. The fact that a yet-to-be-appointed “car czar” will have control over a multibillion dollar advertising budget for the big three. Under the guise of “oversight,” this would effectively “Create World’s Most Powerful Marketing Exec[utive].”
The draft rescue plan for Detroit sent to the White House by Congress yesterday calls for the appointment of a “car czar” who will oversee the Big Three automakers’ expenses over $25 million — which, by extension, would include media buys. Based on Advertising Age’s estimates of spending by General Motors Corp., Chrysler and Ford Motor Co., that would give the as-yet-unnamed car czar control over some $7.3 billion in marketing spending in the U.S. alone.
The most disturbing thoughts about this (particularly to those concerned with liberty) are provoked here:
The car czar would wield a budget more than double those of AT&T, Verizon, Unilever and Johnson & Johnson, which round out the nation’s top five marketing spenders, and give the car czar more clout with media and agencies than such famed names in marketing as Walmart Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Quinn and Anheuser-Busch VP-Marketing Dave Peacock.
…If the bailout goes through, agencies that work for the Big Three will essentially be toiling on a government account, with all the associated red tape and strictures that involves.
So there you have it. We should all be concerned about this for many reasons. As mentioned, the large ad budget that comes with a czar-controlled U.S. auto industry will allow a government bureaucrat to wield unbalanced and unchecked influence over not only who gets ad contracts, but what media outlets get ad money. The czar can simply refuse to give business to an advertising agency who works for a foreign competitor of the big three (or a “non-compliant” corporation), or refuse to pay money to show ads on outlets that they deem “unfriendly” to the administration or its mission. This will be an unequivocal disaster. We have already seen the lengths to which administrations (and pre-administrations) have gone to influence and/or silence media they do not like. What kind of power plays do you think are possible when the administration’s appointee controls a major source of media outlets’ ad revenue? Whatever it ends up being, it won’t be pretty.