Elon Musk says that he is considering Tesla ads, which are against the company’s current marketing policy, to counter what Musk perceives as media bias against Tesla.
For years, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has famously said that he despises advertising. He said that Tesla doesn’t pay or provide discounts for celebrities to drive its cars and that the automaker doesn’t pay to advertise – though we have seen exceptions before.
Instead, Musk says that Tesla uses money that other automakers spend on advertising to improve their products:
Tesla does not advertise or pay for endorsements. Instead, we use that money to make the product great.
The CEO went as far as claiming that the mainstream media doesn’t like him or Tesla because they don’t buy advertising from them.
Now in a new interview, Musk says that Tesla might start advertising to counter this perceived media bias:
Maybe we should advertise because the traditional media will not run negative pieces about automotive because automotive is one of the biggest if not the biggest advertisers in papers. Tesla is basically free game. It’s safe to say that if they run a negative piece about General Motors next to a General Motors ad, General Motors marketing executives are going to call them up and ask: Why did you do that? We will be spending nothing with your publication next year.
Musk suggested that Tesla could start advertising to avoid bias, but it is not a priority right now since the automaker has strong demand that far outpaces its production capacity.
Musk is not wrong. I am sure that lack of advertising is part of the issue with Tesla’s treatment in the media, but there are so many other factors at play.
First and foremost, Musk has developed a tendency to put all negative coverage in the same category: people who have ulterior motives about him or Tesla. That’s a problem because there are real concerns about Tesla and its actions that do deserve negative coverage. Let’s not forget about that.
Now to Musk’s point, there is certainly some unwarranted negative coverage about Tesla in the media, but I don’t think it’s all intentional. A lot of it is incompetence.
If he wants better media coverage about Tesla, he should start by building a new PR team. I know that Tesla was getting unfair coverage back when it had a PR team, but the team was always way understaffed. A strong PR team would help correct coverage and raise the level of accurate information being reported about Tesla in the media. It will never be perfect, but it would certainly be better than now.
I certainly think that this approach would help more than ad spending, which is problematic if your real goal is reduction of negative coverage. To solve that problem, you would have to spend specifically with publications that you believe unfairly cover you because you don’t spend money with them. Do you really want to reward that kind of behavior?
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