What Should TopGear do about the Stig? get a new one?

racing helmets colors stig bbcWe all know by now that the TopGear white Stig has written a book and revealed his long kept secret identity. How could he do this? (maybe I will find out when the book arrives)

The Stig was a great character that adds a lot of life to the show, although he doesn’t publicly get acknowledged for his work. (Maybe that is what he needed?) Still, his mysterious identity was the way that fans related to him. Nobody wanted to be like the Stig when he was jokingly shown as Michael Schumacher. That is just way too intimidating. And keeping the role anonymous also kept racing enthusiasts from arguing over the bias/skills that he has because of the driver’s specific experience. It was pure genius for the show and the robotic slightly alien personality they adopted for the Stig over time really brought a comedic element to the show also. (anyone remember the stig’s credit card or how he used it?) 

I’m not sure what the answer is to this question. Mr Ben Collins has lost the best gig he has had yet and now they have to reinvent the Stig in a new form because Jeremy Clarkson has said that Ben was fired for this breach of confidentiality and contract with the BBC.

Does this mean there will be a Blue Stig? Or other colors and shapes and sizes? Or will they bring real race car drivers into the show as regular presenters? I think Tanner Faust is a good example of why not. Race car drivers tend to be emotionless trash talking robots. Look at Tanner and Paul Tracy in that car crash of a show they have on cable. It’s painful because there is no real-person-experiencing-the-car type element that people can identify with and the guys seem a bit wooden on camera. So, I don’t recommend bringing in more race car drivers in as hosts.

Maybe the stig can be reinvented in an interesting way. Maybe there is a recall and they can get another Stig sent from the factory? Maybe borrow the Stig’s Fat American Cousin for a while? Maybe recruit new stigs and make it a competition between the different colored race suited Stigs? Maybe there is a story behind how each stig is born or made that can be amusing to us all. Or a school full of little Stigs running around to recruit from in the coming years? Or can they get a local car rental place to rent a stig with the VW Rabbit for a slight upcharge? This is the joy of writing for characters like this, you can just make it all up as it comes, and that has made it quirky and interesting for the last 10 years or so.

Some people may want them to get someone like Sabine in there (as herself), which could be interesting, but even she isn’t the same element to the show and she likes to trash talk too much. I don’t understand what that adds to a show. They could very well hire a driver to “play a robot/alien guy driver character” with their face shown but acting isn’t really what race car drivers are known for.  They could turn ridiculous and audition a bunch of other people in bear suits, or whatever but thats kind of jumping the shark. Maybe they could recruit one of the guys from Clarkson Island?

Anyway, back to reality. I really liked the impartial comparison of each car by this independent yet authoritative source in the show. I really liked it being anonymous and I also think the story/character adds a lot of fun. I’m not sure what Jeremy Clarkson & team have up their sleeves but I hope its good because he has 350 million people waiting on this decision.  This is the most universally popular show in the world because of how it represents people’s love affair with cars and irreverence about conventions. It’s the biggest thing to come from the UK since Monty Python in the irreverence department and we would like more please.  Whatever they do, they may want to consider a higher salary for the role or just pick a new stig every year. I’m sure that if the show ends they would be able to reveal this info since it wouldn’t be necessary anymore and have  Stig reunion episode or something.

 Update:  Maybe TopGear should hire Daft Punk as the next stigs, have one drive and the other with a digital mixing board making music during the test drives? They’ve already got the right wardrobe.

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2009 Super Bowl Ads Commercials Selling Fast on NBC

super bowl 2009 tampa bay florida game logo XLIII

super bowl 2009 tampa bay florida game logo XLIII

It’s that time of year again when the first rumblings of the next year’s super bowl advertisers come out. (for super bowl 43) I think the companies just ask that their info be released this early to start the buzz cycle and get more mileage out of the media buy. There really isn’t any other reason to release the advertiser names now in September when the ads aren’t even finished yet.

They say the 30 second ad spots are selling for $3 Million dollars each. That is the going rate for a direct sales pitch into 88 million homes and TV sets all at the same time. (when are they going to start webcasting the game and the ads all together like a second delivery system of the same signal? why wouldn’t that work?) Advertisers that actually get a positive ROI from that kind of heavy hitting creative investment are wide appeal mass market companies that have products that are either seasonal at that time of year or products that relate to sports watchers or families watching at home.  Products like snacks, drinks, beer and cars have long been popular categories for Super Bowl Ads.

This year some of the confirmed advertisers are Pepsi and CocaCola, Anheuser-Bush, and a bunch of un-named Automotive, Movie and snack companies. Doritos have done really well the past few years and I wonder if they will plunge in again. I think the trend may be finally waning in the internet sites do ads category since few of them have that kind of money laying around anymore and/or need the visibility.

The timing of your ad during the Super Bowl Game is also crucial. The good spots are probably taken already in Q1 and Q3. Q2 gets boring because people have been sitting a while and just want halftime to start so they can use the bathroom and Q4 may be less well watched if the game isn’t almost tied the whole time. Many people just turn it off when the game is a blowout. The ends of pods are also bad because it just leads back into the game and consumers forget the ad pretty quickly. Being first in a pod is best since people have been proven to remember things in chunks and the beginning and end are usually the chunks they remember most.

Sometimes companies get their ads in at the last moment when 1 or 2 ads are left a week or two before the Super Bowl Game but this may not be available this year if companies are paying 300K more per ad willingly and forking over the money (or deposit) this early in the year. I think that marketers are realizing that in a fragmented market you have to be as prominent on every screen as possible to stay top of mind and above the chatter that gets tuned out. But ad placement is only 1/2 of the strategy. The other half is really the most important. It is really about relevance and humor. If you can make your product funny in a way that real people identify with personally, you have a winner and get all the chatter at the watercooler the next day.

TopGear USA Names New Host Adam Corolla

adam corolla, topgear USA, Gear, NBC, host, presenter, newAs Jalopnik reported last week Adam Corolla has been named the first host of TopGear USA in it’s newest iteration of GEAR on NBC in 2009. (per an announcement on his radio show and some pix with TG cars, see K Nob left.) I have read all kinds of mixed reviews online and heard people’s opinions on this pick and here are my thoughts to add to the fray:

1. I don’t know Adam Corolla from a bag of rocks but a lot of people seem to know him from The Man Show and they seem to think he is funny and willing to get shoved in frozen lake for a laugh. (which sinefeld and leno wouldn’t do) This is encouraging. He doesn’t have a persona that is so well known it is career limiting (being typecast) yet people are pretty sure he can do (or has done) Improv in his day and has some snark. This was a big qualifier for this job. I am sure they did some pilot episode recording or something to compare the candidates on film (per Richard Hammond’s book where he mentions his interview & audition) and I bet Adam probably does ok in the snark category. (he also seems to do well in the 1991 wardrobe category) This is probably the most important part of the selection process.

2. Many people seem to be up in arms about the TopGear USA show needing to be an exact replica of the TG UK show down to the exact personality traits of each host. (presenter) They say they need an overbearing stubborn tall guy, and an emotional and hyper short guy and a long haired geeky guy. This couldn’t be more wrong. You need some great personalities, some strong opinions and some great improv and mucking about to make a great show. You can’t re-create the actual people and their attitudes over here that Jeremy, Richard and James have in real life. That would be monkey-stupid and not at all viable. The mix should be diverse but the personalities all will be different.

2.5 I have also read that people think Adam Corolla doesn’t have a car background. He must have some car knowledge though or else they wouldn’t have selected him. I would guess that you would have to have all of the following skills to host: know how to drive a manual transmission well enough to talk to the camera and drive at the same time, know some basic autocross skills for the lap times and tests, be familiar with fancy and race type cars so that you know how to power slide and such. I would also hope the person genuinely enjoyed power sliding and pushing a car’s limits. I think a lot of the technical things that Jeremy, James and Richard say are discussed with the producers and prep people of TG to give them some topline analysis from the team of research geeks behind the scenes. Hopefully NBC’s GEAR will have a team of car geeks behind the scenes too.

3. Some people are complaining that the show will be all about NASCAR and that will suck ass. Yes, that would technically suck ass if it happened, but I think the show will have diverse talent and diverse activities all around the different car type groups. (Imports, Domestics, Pony Cars, Muscle Cars, Roadsters, Trucks, Minvans, SUVs, Street Racing Mods, Low Riders, Classics, Really old Classics, Classics with wooden wheels, Green Ecological leaf-eating Cars, Exotics and Supercars. And hopefully there will be some fun crossover with the auto racing sports in this country Indy, CART, NASCAR, Funny Cars, F1, Unlimited Fuel Dragsters, Autocross, Sprints, and Demolition Derbys at the county fair. (please use the last one I beg you) The content is usually based on a couple things:

    A. Supercars awe inspire us all, so cover as many of those as possible and make the editing and camera work turn it into car pron. This keeps the 10-50 yr old boys happy, and the beauty of the cars even makes it interesting to some of us women. We also enjoy the speed.

    B. People need practical every day cars reviewed in a non-sleep inducing non-autoweek way. This means everything from the YuGo to the Mercs. (by merc I mean Mercedes not Mercury, I can’t believe I just said that) I can’t believe MOTORweek is still on TV. I want to shoot my television when I run across that show accidentally.

    C. Challenges building things and Road Trips through other countries are the comedy and entertainment portion of the program. Do the ridiculous, seriously. Do the serious, ridiculously. And please Fork it up in ways we never thought possible. The only difference here is that it should require less passport use in the USA. Route 66 anyone? Highway 1 PCH?

    D. Weird sometimes stupid stunts. Jumping minivans and seeing how long a car runs with all the coolant drained out of it. endurance, destruction and general stunt-ness is needed here. These segments are short on time and long suspense and hopefully provide either humor or carnage or both. (ala the car chases in the blues brothers movie)

    E. The Star in a Reasonably Priced Car segment. It allows the BBC to make some marketing money and it gives us some interesting non-car related person in an autocross race situation. This either ends up being impressive or rediculous, it works great either way. I recommend a Chevy Malibu as the car here. It’s so average it hurts. It will also be painful seeing George Clooney actually sit in one instead of the fancy schmantsy things he is used to.

But the question I want answered that no one was asking is: Did Adam Corolla get the job just because he was named after a cheap econo-box Japanese car? If so it’s a really bad pun, and I wouldn’t mention it. I think using the corolla as the reasonably priced car is out too.

Also read about the interview with Adam Corolla and my suggestions for the show here.

Also, I am a little baffled that this got ranked #1 on a TopGear USA search in Google. I am not sure how that happened. This blog isn’t really that great, except possibly when I write about TG or Marketing. Anyway, if for some reason you officially want to contact me about what I write here, you can through my other blog here. My stats say that about 50 people a day are looking for TG USA info and come here. I hope that is enough for NBC’s to keep the show on air this fall.

TopGear USA Version 2 with NBC BBC Partnership

According to this news article NBC has contracted with the BBC to produce a USA version of TopGear for network free tv. No estimates on when it would launch but I would guess Fall of 2008. It is sad though that I think they may miss the mark. A lot of funny TopGear stuff is not suitable for US TV let alone would pass the network censors.

Anyway, I did get some hope when I suggested a few months ago that TopGear should hold open auditions for the 3 presenter spots when launching a new show in a new country because you can more accurately find talent that is in touch with what is funny and new with cars. Plus its a huge PR event to get the public involved.

Anyway the TopGear Australian franchise took my advice (or thought of it too) and has open auditions scheduled. Go Aussies! Bring us some Holden goodness.

Another Word of advice: for an unscripted but not a reality show, you need people with a background in Improv and Cars. Or a smart ass who knows cars, or an improv funny guy who knows nothing about cars and gets to be the new captain slow. And these presenters have to have strong opinions about cars for it to clash in a funny way. Who knows. But improv training and quick wit is a big part of the equation. Exploiting your lack of knowledge for comedy can be just as funny as knowing a lot.

So, what I want to know is where do I sign up? You could very easily use a girl in the mix right?

The other part of the successful mix is not chopping it into small pieces with commercials every 5 minutes and not ruining it with dumb stunts like fear factor. I hate fear factor but love TopGear. If you put anything like FF on TG I will hunt you down and hang you by your toenails. It’s supposed to be about humor in car culture and in every day life. Heck, get the Jalopnik guys. They know the cult of cars as good as anyone I know.

My brother just replied to my email I sent alerting him to this and suggested that Jay Leno or Tim Allen host but I really think they need presenters who are unknown and from improv. Jay Leno and Tim Allen are great funny car guys, but they are too attached to other brands and images. And they aren’t a Jeremy Clarkson. Plus how are you going to get through traffic on the 405 with filming big stars anyway? Would either of those guys put on a wet suit and try to windsurf in freezing cold water? And be ok with failing miserably in freezing cold water? You also need unknown people so you don’t attract too much attenton filming in the city as these challenges are happening.

On a side note about the show content, they need to visit all the racing and car history places along the way going cross country as they film different challenges. (think INDY) They go across entire countries in a day on UK TopGear but in the US it would be states instead. At least you don’t need a passport. And we need an American cousin Stig that actually fits in the car this time. Not all Americans are that fat.

Anyway, my lack of time for this post is probably evident in it’s lack of  structure, grammar and spelling, but you get the point: NBC/BBC: Don’t FORK this up!

And my brother just emailed again saying he still wants Tim Allen to host with 2 unknown but funny/smart side kicks. Ok, we can compromise on that, but no denim shirts and grunting this time ok? That’s so 1990’s. Ugh. 

Another idea; Why not Ze Frank? he singlehandedly entertained us on the internet for a year and might be perfect for this kind of non scripted show. Check out the show http://www.zefrank.com/theshow/ and his TED talk from a few years ago if you have a minute. http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/87  I have been wondering what he has been up to and missing his show anyway. Maybe this would be a good opportunity for him. Hey Studio people, give Ze a call!

 Update: The first TopGear USA NBC host has been chosen: Adam Corola.

Football Update Overheard in the Office

“I have it on good authority that Brett Farve (the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers) is actually 63% cheese.”

this was interjected in a conversation about football teams still in the playoffs.

This is why I enjoy sitting next to creatives. (Art/Design professionals) They have more creativity in their pinky fingernail than I do in my entire body.

This is the same guy that earlier in the week said that a Giant Rutebega had conquered the world.

And now back to work…

TopGear Season 10 Episode 7 Review

I enjoyed this week’s show. It was good to see something different. James, Richard and Jeremy all go buy vintage British cars from the 1970’s. They all seem to be small economical cars that are 4 door hatchbacks or mini 4 door sedans. They also seem to be the design that my dad’s 70’s era Buick century 4 door hatchback was based on. buick century hatchback, 4 door, 1970's(what was going on in that decade?)  Then they do some unusual tests to see how well these cars have dealt with age.  The funniest ones are saved for the end when they have to drive the car on a bumpy test road and have eggs in a colander strapped above their heads. Additionally they all loose parts of the car along the way. This was probably the funniest part. Surprise always helps the funny. Later they also fill the cars with water via a fire-hose and try and see how far they can drive them before they drain below the steering wheel. Clearly the BBC TG staff has been bored lately and working hard on new unusual ways to torture their presenters. Jeremy’s car doesn’t fare well since it keeps loosing doors unexpectedly. So, I may have ruined the surprise.

The star in a reasonably priced car segment was fun. Jennifer Saunders of French & Saunders show and Absolutely Fabulous fame comes by to take out the Chevy whatever around the track and she is surprisingly fierce. She is really competitive and apparently fearless. I guess you can get that way when you do comedy, you can’t really be scared of anything in order to do that for a living. Anyway she ends up 2nd on the board. Way to go Jennifer! It is great to see that since I am a fan of her work.

Other than that they do some mucking around in the news about Korea and forget that Holden (vauxall minaro) is from Australia. they also insist on pronouncing Hyundai as Hiaundai instead of Hunday and Jeremy forgets how to use the TV and prints out all his pix on paper.  Jeremy also burns mucho rubber in a new Aston Martin DBS. He concludes that it is really a juiced up DB9 replacement. Ok, but there are many of us that are completely ambivalent about that. It’s gorgeous but unattainable.

Coincidentally there is also an article in TIME magazine about the 15 million BBC channels all with the same name in the UK and the issues they have had keeping viewers and trying to not rig the unscripted shows they run. They make no mention of TG of course, because it’s a pretty successful franchise. I do thing that the BBC is doing ok really and not nearly as badly as they might say because in addition to all the fees they extract for ads on BBC America and the TG site, according to TIME they get $275 bucks from every TV receiving household each year in the UK. Whether it’s paid through taxes or directly I don’t know, but no one else gets that here. ( except PBS? but not that much) Sounds pretty good to me.

Anyway enjoy the full version online at YouTube here: