Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#NAIAS: The Goodies

There are lots of priorities to choose from at an auto show. Some go for the star-sightings, while others make a beeline for the catering. Some go for the partying, and some (shock horror) even go for the chokeful of cars and trucks on display. But for those more tangibly minded, and as a way to appease our inner hoarder, the auto show is about one thing and one thing only – Swag.

It comes in all forms. Start off with a keychain, along with a lanyard or two. Then advance onto a tote bag, and perhaps some lavishly binded brochures - Not the generic full range ones of course (how pedestrian!). Always go model specific. And if you’re lucky enough to get a press pass and attend the unfettered media days before the big show opens to the public, you are awarded the most coveted swag of all – The Electronic USB Press Kit (EPK).

In a digital age where interactivity has become the norm, pulp and paper no longer suffice when it comes to press material. Lamborghini was one of the first manufacturers to realize the oncoming digital revolution. So when the Murcielago debuted in Geneva in 2001, Lamborghini included a CD along with its thickly laden press kit. Seared onto the disc were a plethora of glossy promo videos, hi-resolution press photos as well as technical specifications on the new model.

Since then CDs have made way for USB Drives. The information is pretty standard fare these days: Photos for the blog, Videos for those who want to see it go sideways, and some pdf copies of the facts and figures for the pedantically inclined.  

What becomes unique is the clever ways automakers have come up with on packaging the drives. Creativity counts when everyone is vying for attention. It comes full circle back to priorities again – A thoughtfully designed EPK might just win over the jaded, over-caffeinated journalist into prioritizing one presser over another.

With that in mind, here is a shortlist of the clever and thoughtful at work at this year’s North American International Auto Show:

Is it a latch? Or is it something else? Hyundai takes a Spooks approach for its Genesis Coupe / Veloster Turbo EPK with this stealthy USB Drive masquerading as a lanyard.

Buick went with a wooden approach to its USB Press Kit for its Encore SUV, fusing the electronic with a touch of organic flair.

While it doesn’t carry any credit, Chevrolet went with a credit card like USB EPK (just this once) maxed out  on information about its Code 130R and Tru 140S concepts aimed at the younglings. The packet also comes with some badges with the letters ‘R’ and ‘S’ on them, which is the bow tie’s designation for its high performance models. Suddenly the cars’ random alphanumeric names make perfect sense.

This year Ford let it be known that it is possible to make the foam in its car seats from recycled plastic bottles. Keeping in line with the recycling theme, the Blue Oval went with the same design for its Fusion press kit as last year’s show, which is *drumroll* a USB stick enclosed in the shape of a blue oval.

At first glance it seemed like Kia got a bundle deal on its USB Drives with Chevrolet. Closer inspection reveals a nifty colour display that serves as a portable digital gallery showcasing Kia’s latest vehicles for 2012. When it comes to card-shaped USB Drives, the Black Card, much like its unrelated but payable sibling, trumps them all.

The Dart was an important car for Dodge, and the press kit made sure to reflect that fact. The sumptuous dual pane box contains a Dart (Literally)-shaped USB Drive along with a swatch book showing off the myriad of customization options for new compact sedan. In terms of content and presentation, the Dart Press kit handily hits the Bulls-Eye.

One would be forgiven for mistaking this as a key fob to a Nissan, because that is exactly what Nissan’s press kit for the New Pathfinder was modeled after. Sadly pressing the 'unlock' button does not grant fabled access to a GT-R.  Or anything resembling a full sized Nissan.

Mopar’s USB kit was the darling of the automotive press, and wins on being one of the more elaborate giveaways at the show. The USB drive mimics the classic spark plug to a tee, neatly packaged into a little paint tin. As if that wasn’t enough, Mopar also included a screwdriver keychain for those impromptu tightening jobs.

Special mention goes to this Top Gear USA Branded Pen, which looks more like something from a high speed run at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The TG Contingent was on hand to promote its third season, set to premiere on February 14th on the History Channel.  The wheels roll, and the pen works. Just in time for filling in those dull credential request forms.

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