Thursday, March 27, 2008
Shilling For Dollars
I've been seeing these Hyundai commercials a lot recently. In an effort to make buying a new car look like a shrewd financial move, Hyundai has recruited three authors of personal finance books to appear in commercial spots and dispense nuggets of financial wisdom along with a hearty side of condescension. I don't see how these commercials help Hyundai or the authors. These guys may all be best selling authors, but they aren't bringing any star power to Hyundai. In each spot, the writers have to be introduced by the customer blurting out an utterly ridiculous line, such as "Adam Smith? Best selling author of The Money Game?" in order for the viewers to know who they are. The writers may drum up some extra sales for their books by appearing on TV, but they are doing so at the cost of turning themselves into shills for Hyundai. The conflict of interest doesn't rise to the level of a Ford ad campaign I saw a few years ago that featured an automotive writer whose name I forget gushing over the new Ford Freestar, but I think it's still a conflict of interest. Cars are one of the biggest purchases that people make and nearly every personal finance book that I've read has spent some time discussing common financial mistakes that people make when buying cars and how to avoid them. As if all of this wasn't enough, the authors come off like a bunch of know-it-all jerks in these commercials. Adam Smith's "Which one of us is a Rhodes Scholar" retort is especially nauseating. If you're like me and found it a little bit too suspicious that there's a financial writer named Adam Smith, I can save you a trip to Wikipedia by confirming that it is a pseudonym. His real name is George Goodman.