In May 2019, Elon Musk took to Twitter to explain why his electric vehicle company didn’t run commercials like every single other major automaker. “Tesla does not advertise or pay for endorsements,” he wrote at the time. “Instead, we use that money to make the product great.” Later that year, he put his thoughts into fewer words: “I hate advertising.”
Then in 2022, the mogul bought Twitter, became its CEO, floundered around a bit and finally hired Linda Yaccarino, an advertising executive, to take the reins of the social media site. It seems that experience changed his entire perspective on commercials. Just a few days after announcing the hire, Musk made another surprise announcement at a Tesla shareholder meeting in Texas: “So I guess I should say advertising is awesome, and everyone should do it. We’ll try out a little advertising and see how it goes.”
A few days after that, on May 19, the Tesla Asia Twitter account posted a two-minute video of a woman in Singapore, which as Jalopnik writes is the most expensive country in the world to own a car, talking about how much she loves owning a Model 3.
Is this a peek at the ads Tesla is rolling out?
Some people thought so. CNN reported that this is “possibly [Tesla’s] first-ever commercial,” but the testimonial, called “Drive to Believe,” is actually part of a series that dates back to at least 2017. A creative agency in the Netherlands called The Brave New Now designed the testimonials for Tesla, among other video projects, in which drivers who owned cars from other brands tested a Tesla for a week and shared their thoughts. This new video in Singapore follows a similar structure, but it features an owner instead of someone simply trying out a Tesla.
Who Is Linda Yaccarino, Elon Musk’s Pick to Run Twitter?Known as the “velvet hammer,” the ad exec could be just what the social media company needs
So no, this isn’t Tesla’s “first-ever commercial” (unless they’re paying to run it on certain channels — Musk’s ownership of Twitter aside), but it could be a signal of where the company will go with its new advertising push: letting owners be the face of the brand, instead of Elon Musk.
While the polarizing, Twitter-obsessed CEO has certainly been a major driving force in elevating awareness of Tesla around the world, that can only get them so far. According to a recent survey conducted by Axios and Harris Poll, Tesla’s reputation among Americans is in decline; of the 100 most visible companies in the country, Tesla was ranked 62nd, a major drop from their position at 11 in 2022. Among other automakers, Toyota ranked 6th, Honda at 13th, Subaru at 16th, BMW at 24th, Ford at 32nd, General Motors at 34th and Volkswagen at 56th. The only automaker on the list lower than Tesla is Chrysler/Stellantis at 67th.
Twitter, meanwhile, is at 97 out of 100, only besting Fox, FTX and the Trump Organization.
In his heart, Musk may still hate advertising, but his companies could really use a PR boost. Maybe scrapping that department wasn’t the best long-term strategy.
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