Chris Moerdyk

Is Schabir Shaik a closet BMW salesman?

2011-03-21 07:38

I'm not altogether sure the people at BMW enjoy their association with Schabir Shaik, but they are getting some quite extraordinary publicity for their 7-series cars and in particular the nifty little automatic boot closing device.

When Shaik hit the headlines again last week by being arrested, put in jail, immediately moved into hospital and then almost as quickly sent home again, TV news bulletins showed him driving his shiny black Beemer. Over and over again.

Now either the TV networks don't have any video material of Shaik doing anything else but driving his car or he is a closet salesman doing what appears to be a fantastic selling job for BMW.

Would you still aspire to drive a BMW in spite of seeing all this Shaikcentric advertising? Or, would you buy another brand on principle? Come on, be honest now. Let's have your comments below.

For months during his trial TV coverage consisted to a large degree of showing Shaik arriving in his black 7 series and then leaving once again in his Beemer but never without showing one of his lackeys pressing the little button on the boot and having it whoosh down quietly and almost imperceptibly clunk closed.

All publicity is good publicity

Both e.tv and SABC cameramen seem to have been absolutely fascinated with this boot closing feature and by now I would imagine it has probably set a world record for the amount of publicity given to any single feature of a motor car on public television.

Frankly, if I were still working for BMW I would be delighted and wouldn't give a toss about being associated with someone who is accused of all sorts of nefarious things. In this case all publicity is good publicity because people who buy 7-series Beemers usually have the intelligence to realise that the car and the man are two completely separate things. And that BMW is certainly not responsible for who buys their cars.

Having said that, however, BMW have been extremely active in the TV and movie industries for at least the past decade or two with what they call product placement cars. It is good publicity. But, they do care a lot about who is seen to be driving them. So much so, that if the Schabir Shaik Show was a fictional movie, he wouldn't get to drive the Beemer.

They have fleets of cars in all major movie-making centres that are available free of charge to TV feature and documentary makers as well as producers of mainstream movies.

Effective

But, there is one little proviso - the Beemers are not allowed to be used by the bad guys in a movie. Which is why in most feature movies today only the heroes get to drive the Beemers.

This is becoming more and more a part of marketing and there is no doubt that as conventional advertising on cinema and TV screens gets more and more cluttered and as technology allows TV viewers to watch their favourite programmes on demand, which in turn will mean they'll be able to "zap" out the ads, product placement will become a far greater force in advertising.

It’s already happening and its very effective.

Next time you watch a soap opera try and drag your concentration away from what little plot there is and try and spot the product placement. It’s exactly the same with sitcoms these days and personally I think this is a wonderfully effective compromise (if it’s handled properly, which means subtly) between viewers' reaction against commercials interrupting programmes and the need to pay for programmes with ad revenue.

Future of advertising

As long as product placement is not contrived and intrusive, it works a treat. And best of all, it’s an absolute cinch to measure.

It’s the future of advertising.

But, the big question is should Schabir Shaik get given the latest model 7-series from BMW? He has been doing a crack-up job for them.

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