Tuesday, November 18, 2008

GM uses technology to be scary - directly to the people!

Just another example of how new technology does not make something more transparent. GM has posted a video on their website and on YouTube, to help you separate "fact and fiction" about the auto crisis. Very helpful, I'm sure.

What does this have to do with open government? It's a perfect example of how wrong this whole experiment could go. What is wrong with the video that GM posted?
  • It has an agenda, but doesn't make that explicit. I realize that anyone who watches that video probably can tell that GM has an agenda, the video has the feel of a negative campaign ad. It would be much more powerful if they openly asked for support.
  • It tries to scare us! OMG! All of Minnesota and Virginia will be out of a job! An auto industry collapse will lead to a broad military conflict! What will we do?!
  • It doesn't acknowledge both sides of the argument. This is the difference between building trust and making people feel like they're being taken. By establishing early on that there are two sides to an issue, you have more trust with your audience when you later need to take a stand.
  • It doesn't put a person in front of the camera. Again, it's all about building trust. If GM posted a video of their CEO telling us the facts and why we need to act, it would be hard to accuse him of lying outright. In a faceless video like this, it's easy to ignore the claims because we are used to advertising lying to us.
Incidentally, the auto industry understood this at one point. Check out this 1984 Chrysler ad, featuring then-CEO Lee Iococca. The CEO puts himself in front of the camera, acknowledges Chrysler's failures, and makes an explicit plea for Americans to give Chrysler another chance. When you watch this video, it might not make you buy American, but it sure makes you feel good about what they are doing.

There was no new technology in that ad; it ran on TV just like any other ad. But it emboddies openness, and builds trust with its audience. Obama's team can learn a lot from the auto industry - they just have to look at the auto industry two decades ago.

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