Wednesday, September 22, 2004

"Poster Child" Taken To Woodshed

Today a friend forwarded me a link to a website where I was labeled by the editor of HybridDriver.com as the "poster child for the disenchanted". The author (the editor) also took Consumer Reports to task for test-driving hybrids at "near tip-over speed" to prove that the don't get the advertised miles. To be clear, once again: I have not lost faith in hybrid-technology. I have issues with how the advertisers set expectations about the fuel-efficiency of such vehicles. Even to this day, Honda still sets unrealistic expectations with consumers about the potential mileage, still dedicating messaging to the very faulty EPA estimates that everyone in the industry (but not regular consumers) know to be way off the mark. That's my issue. Plain and simple.


This is the blurb written on the Honda website about the gas mileage. Very misleading.  Posted by Hello

29 Comments:

At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Blackshaw,

I appreciate and respect that your Hybrid has not met your expectations of fuel economy... expectations which were certainly fueled by marketing, which was and is typical in our market-driven economy. Honda and Toyota have chosen to duck much of the responsibility for this by sighting the EPA as the sole determining body for their posted mileage figures. I think the greatest pressure should be focused on the EPA for getting it wrong and not correcting the flawed methodology. There is a joke you probably know whose punch line is "...But, hey, I am a scorpion. And this is the Middle East."

The greater issue in your response to our Editorial is your own status. I didn't "pick up" an MBA from Harvard, but I have been a working journalist for over 30 years. Now that I read your blog, I see you are certainly not just Joe Blow with a gripe. Your CV on the Intelliseek (http://www.intelliseek.com/management.asp) website says you are the Chief Marketing Officer. It also reveals that, while working for Proctor & gamble, you were apparently responsible for telling the world that Bounty paper towels were "the quicker picker-upper." I guess if anyone understands hype, it is you. So, where was the truth in advertising in the CBS story? You don't seem to mind that CBS didn't divulge that you are a professional in the marketing field. To the viewer you were, and still are Joe and Joan Blow. It is unfair too wrap yourself in the cloak of full disclosure and ignore that you were complicit in avoiding full disclosure in the CBS story. Of course you could blame CBS, just as the automakers blame the EPA. I'm sure the automakers have a few Harvard MBA's working for them too. So, maybe there is just a different truth standard for Harvard MBA's.

If you would like to write a response to our editorial, I will gladly publish it on HybridDriver.com in its unabridged entirety. But, I will exercise my right to respond, a response which will include the text if this reply.

Thankfully, CBS has not committed any further journalistic transgressions since the story with you:)

Respectfully,
Bob Lawrence
Publisher, Hybriddriver.com
bob@hybriddriver.com

PS: You are right. You are not the poster child for the disenchanted. You appear to be a calculating marketing professional, exploiting the fact that CBS has misplaced its ethical compass. Commission or omission, either way it falls way short of truth.

 
At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is disclosure the main issue that Bob Lawrence is upset about? I'm certainly interested in listening to his concern on this, but I'm awful surprised at the tone of his "editorial reply." [particularly the "...MY OTHER CAR IS A HUMMER license plate frame..." comment] While reading his editorial, I got the impression that he had never read the blog; it seems odd that a "journalist of thiry years" didn't bother to view the second result for the Google query "Pete Blackshaw" before writing a ten paragraph editorial. But again, if he wants to insinuate that the whole hybridbuzz project was a setup, I'm willing to hear him out. I just wish he would develop a stronger case.

But mostly I'd like to know if the data that Pete has provided (on the blog or on CBS) is inconsitant with other Civic hybrid owners. Is it the data, or his intentions that concerns Mr. Lawrence?

Also, it would be nice if Mr. Lawrence could tell us a little more about his website. Its ashame that he doesn't have a forum or blog open without registration. Does the "HB Global Community" offer some sort of discussion forum? If not, it seems like that would be a great idea. Also, since you are paying people for contributions, it would nice to know where the funding is coming from.

It looks like the site has some good links. And the "hybrid headlines" are a nice touch. But I have a few suggestions. I wish it was better organized and designed with a little more style; it is visually uncomfortable. It would also be nice if he had links to specific hybrid data, hybrid FAQs, comparisons, etc.

 
At 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

Bob Lawrence again. Thanks for the suggestions. Some major additions to HybridDriver.com are in the works right now. And, a redesign/modernization would be great. Time permitting that will happen. I invite you to critique our other sites, as well: http://TravelReporter.com , http://MyCommercial.net and http://WriterInterviews.com . I know they all could use a more creative touch.

Our bread and butter business is video production for both conventional and online streaming. With that, time just hasn't been available to do the polish I’d like to do to HybridDriver.com. By Tuesday there will be two new reviews of the Prius and Civic Hybrid on the site also with streaming video summaries of both. Right now the community is just a freebee we are able to offer to people who would like a website that relates to hybrids along with the templates to build it without much website building knowledge. We also own http://domainnamedepartment.com for those who want low cost hosting and domain registration. I did not set out to make this a commercial about what we do, but you seemed curious.

As far as a second search or further finding about Mr. Blackshaw on Google, I checked. I’m not sure what you were referring to. It would have been helpful if you had just said it instead of being cryptic.

Although I obviously respect your comments about style, the issue of the CBS report was a matter of substance. The importance of disclosure was raised by Mr. Blackshaw. It seemed appropriate to point out the gross lack of context clarifying discloser in the CBS story. I didn't even raise the question of Mrs. Blackshaw's background and why she was videotaping interactions with the dealer in the first place. Of course, neither did the the reporter. The whole story seemed a bit askew. It is my guess that the Blackshaws never met the reporter, anyway. Nobody pointed a gun to their heads and said appear on CBS or else. What they let happen in that report still makes it look as though they have a double standard.

I am no apologist for the automakers. But I think the EPA could solve most of the problem by revising their methodology. As a former Fortune 500 company marketing executive, Mr. Blackshaw knows that a corporation will take any advantage it is given.

Again, thanks for the comments, positive and negative as well as the suggestions about HybridDriver.com. This is no excuse, but HybridDriver predates template-driven Blogs and has been a challenge to maintain. If it someday generates some revenue, maybe it can be all it should be.

Regards,
Bob Lawrence
bob@hybriddriver.com

PS: Remaining anonymous seems to be another way of ducking accountability.

PPS: In case you wonder, I left TV news just because of the double standard and promotion-drive hype that increasing passes as journalism in America, especially on television. I made the decision while sitting on a sand berm, 35 miles south of the Kuwaiti border talking to a group of Marines at 1 AM during the buildup to the first Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield).

All this chatter about CBS's reporting on Hybrid mileage is just trivia compared to the way sloppy journalism and Fox TV-type hype are impacting lives everyday.

The guys I was talking with that night were members of the LAV unit that was hit by "friendly fire" sustaining several casualties during the war. I'm not sure how many of the kids I was talking with are still alive, but I refused to part of a corrupt, greed driven system, cloaking itself in the First Amendment.

The story with Mr. Blackshaw was handled with the same ethical compromise as most TV news stories. Reporters know that a good, meaningful report isn't enough. The promotions department needs to like it enough to build a promo around it, if the reporter is going to be a hero. Geraldo Rivera built his entire career on his superior knowledge of that concept. So has Wolf Blitzer. Even the sainted Ed Morrow is part of that club, although he has had Fred Friendly to self-servingly perpetuate his deification far beyond his era. Murrow was as objective a journalist as Paul Harvey. At least with Murrow you could tell when the news ended and the commercial began. Oh well, it's just marketing and what can it hurt. It can be summed up in one hackneyed old cliché: Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

 
At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

I noticed one question posed by annonymous that is important to answer. Any money we are paying for articles ($400.00 so far) is coming out of my pocket. But, I would be glad to be advertiser supported. I am all for honest free enterprise.

Regards,
Bob lawrence
bob@hybriddriver.com

 
At 7:02 PM, Blogger G. Chandler said...

I myself am a little more then suspicious about the promise of hybrid vehicles. Take a look at my blog hybrid.hotrodhomepage.com and tell me what you think.

 
At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Peter, Peter, Peter,

"Cincinnati marketing exec..." Anyone who reads your "About me..." can see that your advocacy interest in this topic is much more serious and professional than "Cincinnati marketing exe..." reveals. Did you complain to Newsweek about their failure to adequately identify their source? (LOL) It may be trivial to compare your CBS story with the Bush National Guard Service story scandal. But, the same slipshod, hype-driven standard was applied to both. I know you are a proponent of truth-in-advertising. It is a pity that truth-in-journalism doesn't seem to matter to you when it comes to stealthfully promoting your bias and self-promotion. You and Bush both went to Harvard, huh? Have you pitched the book to any publishers yet? I'm not an apologist for the carmakers. If they screw-up, burn 'em for it. It's the deception by omission that I think is dishonest, and frankly beneath you. A side note” My 2001 Prius has 82,000 miles on it and gets 46 MPG at 75 MPH. Perhaps you just bought the wrong hybrid.

Regards,
Bob Lawrence
HybridDriver.com

 
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