The US auto industry is hurting bad these days. Their business model centered around large cars bought or leased on easy credit. With gas prices skyrocketing and credit collapsing auto makers are getting hit hard and scaling back. Not only are jobs vanishing in the auto industry, but they are also vanishing in every industry tied to the auto industry.
The latest blow is hitting advertising.
In its latest attempt to save money, General Motors has asked its advertising agencies to slash their fees by as much as 20% this year and next.
GM Presses Ad Agencies on Costs The Wall Street Journal, August 7, 2008
Just how important are automakers to the advertising industry? Take a look at this graphic:
This chart caused me to pause. On local TV stations almost 28% of ad revenue comes from car companies. 28%. Could that possibly have impacts on the way that local news reports stories about alternatives to driving? Or, as is more often the case, fails to report on such stories at all? Still the most major impact is due to the ads themselves for years they have saturated the airwaves, shaping popular views about driving and what it means to own a car.
(Car ads tell us that a car says something about, our personality, and our status in life.)
I never knew that automakers held such a big stake in advertising, although I always wondered why there were so many car ads, I just supposed that I noticed them more simply because I don't drive. I think it is quite possible that this level of saturation has had an impact on how people see different modes of transportation. As we move out of the age of oil, we need to start seeing, walking, biking and mass transit as equal but different modes of transportation. Too often people think that the car is the only way to get around. Too often it has become the only way to get around.
Our economy will suffer as this industry dies if we just curl up and refuse to acknowledge alternatives. If we keep repeating the mantra that "Americans won't ride mass transit" and "Americans won't bike." It's only true because we keep saying it over and over, playing ads over and over, watching ads over and over-- We can change the drum beat. You can change it.
And let me be clear about this: a world where the ONLY option was mass transit and bikes would be just a stupid as one where everyone drives. Every technology has its place, including cars. And we can move to electric cars, or even fuel cell cars too keep that choice compatible with long-range environmental goals.
But, the real change will come from destabilizing the world view that sees the car as the only form of transportation.
Who'd like to buy some ads for bikes?