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Last week I read the ‘What was Fake’ column in the Washington Post, designed to uncover and debunk hoaxes on the Internet, was shutting down. The reason: a combination of too many hoaxes and too little impact. In effect, nobody seems to care about the truth anymore. In fact, there is a growing cottage industry of websites generating a stunning variety of incredulous stories, the more outrageous the better. At the same time, there seems to be decreasing returns in trying to set the record straight. Debunking appears to have lost relevance in this age of hyper-partisan politics and media echo chambers. The article suggests that institutional distrust is so high right now, and cognitive bias so strong always, that the people who fall for hoax news stories are frequently only interested in consuming information that conforms with their views — even when it’s demonstrably fake.”

This disregard for truth is being played out prominently in the political realm. One end of year report by PolitiFact tallied up a list of the least truthful politicians, which detailed a percentage of exaggeration and lies shocking even in a political campaign context. (Ben Carson wins the dubious crown.) But Carson, Trump and others seem to care little about these third-party assessments of their credibility. In fact, rather than being embarrassed or admonished they almost seem to relish the controversy, and use the occasion to vigorously attack the credibility of the ‘mainstream media’ and claim the findings are politically biased. Any contradiction or question is angrily (or sarcastically) dismissed as an adversarial personal attack. Carly Fiorina has developed a refined model of this response: she stubbornly, defiantly repeats her dubious claims (such as the discredited abortion video story) in spite of overwhelming evidence her story has no merit. In this context opinions, policy positions and arguments are often trumpeted as facts – as if repetition and conviction obviates the need for actual empirical evidence.

This trend spans across the political spectrum, and damages the quality and relevance of public discourse for all politicians. There are no winners here in the long-term. For while provocative statements may excite a small group of voters in the short-term, all politicians will ultimately suffer in an environment where arguments (and accusations) can be made without corroboration, objective vetting or third-party analysis.

Perhaps most troubling is that the most ardent followers of these politicians-in-waiting seem immune and uninterested in any fact-finding or evidence that contradicts their favorite pols. Even if they acknowledge a story might be a stretch, they admire the fact their candidate isn’t afraid to rock the boat and share his/her real views. In essence, facts don’t seem to matter much anymore, at least in public discourse. There is information on the Internet available to back any claim, no matter how outrageous, and standards or probity have become largely subjective. Fact-finding sites and third-party sources are often dismissed as biased or elitist. The result is a population that is dangerously misinformed, or at least willingly misguided, on a range of issues. They believe what they want to believe, and nothing will change their mind.

Trying to subvert or ignore truth is nothing new, of course. In recent years we’ve seen this on a grand scale, notably the attempts by the tobacco and gas industries to bury evidence and create their own narrative to suit their business interests. But what may be new is the prevalence and prominence of hoaxes and half-truths in the public realm, and the realization that many citizens don’t seem that alarmed. The result can be disastrous for the public good, as in the case of the tobacco lobby activities.

It remains to be seen whether the majority of citizens will push back and demand that their leaders be transparent and truthful, or at least responsive to legitimate questions. Either way, the erosion of truth and objective analysis raises critical questions for the PR industry. It’s an easy temptation to join the parade and counsel clients on crafting and promoting their own narrative without consideration for evidence or credibility.

But this is an opportunity for serious professionals to focus on their core values and principles (which likely feature honesty and ethics) and provide a grown-up perspective to their clients. Think of reputation as a long-term game. Don’t just say the key message, but do the right thing. The emergence of social media ushered a welcome premium on authenticity, transparency and respect for consumers. It’s my sincere hope that the PR industry can help reinforce this spirit and ensure facts remain an integral part of our public discourse.

 

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As a communication professional, I spend a good deal of time working with clients on the rationale and content of their communication. Why do they want to communicate? What are they trying to achieve? Who are they trying to reach? And what should they say or show to convey the right messages and reactions? Too often the how – or the delivery tactics – are an after-thought. In fact, many clients simply want to do what they’ve always done, and are reluctant to explore new platforms or formats. The NHL offers a good reminder of how a smart tactical strategy can pay dividends.

The NHL’s new head of player safety, Brendan Shanahan, has introduced an innovative “show and tell” video strategy to support the league’s aggressive campaign against dangerous hits. In past years, decisions on dirty hits and related penalties were unpredictable and delivered in opaque, often belated statements. Not surprisingly, many players and pundits complained (and presumably many referees were left equally perplexed and frustrated.) Notwithstanding the merit of their decisions, the league didn’t successfully argue their case. Shanahan entered the fray with the fearless purpose he used as a tough power forward. In the first weeks of his tenure, Shanahan assessed a number of fines and penalties and argued strongly against what he saw as dangerous, illegal hits.  But unlike his far more circumspect predecessors, Shanahan reached out directly to players and used game videos and footage of the infractions to make his case. In one video, in response to critics shouting that he’s taking the hitting out of the game, Shanahan explicitly shows a series of clean hits, and explains how those differ from others that resulted in penalties. The video campaign is supported by a healthy menu of interviews, TV appearances and fan events. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Shanahan is a former player with a stellar pedigree as a tough, fair competitor.

The reaction of hockey fans and players, at least anecdotally, has been dramatic and positive. Players now understand the reasons for the discipline, and the nuances that justify different fines for apparently similar infractions. Some players still disagree with the fines and suspensions, of course, but there is much more clarity about the reasons behind the league actions.

The lesson here is two-fold. This is a good reminder that how you present information can make a big difference in how it’s received. Nothing new there. But the NHL also shows us you don’t have to use cutting-edge social platforms to have an impact. Straight talk. Some replay footage. A user-friendly website. A consistent message.

If there’s one phrase that makes me wince when I’m talking to peers or clients, it’s can you help us make a viral video? Believe it or not, I hear it quite frequently. Not surprisingly, many corporate executives are now true believers in the power of social media and want to leverage the tremendous profile and marketing clout of YouTube. Unfortunately, you can’t make a viral video. You can make a video and try to help it become viral – meaning viewers will drive others to see it, share it, comment and eventually make it a media sensation well beyond YouTube. Ultimately, viewers decide what becomes viral through their actions and comments.

Though consumers have the power, there are things you can do to increase your chances of encouraging uploads and buzz. Look at the recent Old Spice YouTube campaign as a good example of a successful viral program. This hilarious campaign – which piggy-backed on a popular television ad – has become a new paradigm of how to drive positive word-of-mouth through a viral video campaign. According to media reports, the campaign has generated hundreds of millions of views and publicity across media channels, and there’s also evidence it has boosted sales. The true genius of this campaign was the timely, interactive nature of the conversation – with the Old Spice shirtless man responding to individual tweets, reaching out to influential celebrities and pundits and even making a marriage proposal on behalf of a Twitter fan.

So why did the Old Spice campaign work so well? Here’s my short-list:

– Though the campaign left plenty of room for spontaneity, there was a marketing plan underneath the whimsy designed to maximize reach and impact across networks and sites;

– The videos were genuinely funny, smart and original – the original ads were a great starting point;

– It was responsive – not only in general terms via comments on YouTube but via individual Tweets responses/posts and video content;

– It was designed as an integrated program that went beyond YouTube;

– It downplayed the Old Spice brand (I didn’t find any mention of the products outside the original TV ads);

– The campaign was human and touching – including one video of the Old Spice actor sending a personal message to his son – reinforcing that social media is about real people;

– The campaign knew enough to end on a high, and called it quits before the joke wore thin.

Another important lesson is that the Old Spice guy generated plenty of spoof videos. Video parodies created by viewers are among the most popular on the internet and often widely surpass the original ads in popularity – so be careful what you wish for. (Two recent examples are the hundreds of video parodies of the Tiger Woods and LeBron James Nike commercials.) Further evidence that what goes viral is not decided by marketers but by consumers. (FYI: check out this article for recent stats on the top viral videos on YouTube.)

I hesitate to wade into the political waters in the wake of the U.S. election, but I keep on asking myself if there are valid lessons for communicators in this post-mortem. A cynical person might be tempted to conclude the following from the mid-term election:

  • Negative advertising – despite being shrill, dubious and laughably formulaic – actually might work.
  • Facts may ultimately be irrelevant in shaping opinion or discourse.
  • Influence and credibility are not necessarily related to knowledge, intelligence or probity.
  • Repeating statements – even outrageous, simplistic arguments – will ultimately result in public acceptance.
  • Personal attacks are acceptable – even expected – under the guise of political discourse.
  • National media have given way to self-important, biased blowhards disguising as reporters.

The context for my soul-searching is that much of the dialogue during the campaign seemed to be about emotion, hype, polarized opinion and vitriol than about policy, statistics or integrity. And there was no consensus on the most trustworthy, reliable sources of information – in fact, it was like a gigantic buffet with pundits and sources for every partisan flavor. Plenty of screaming, media noise and anger…but very little intelligent conversation. During the election, I was asked pointed questions by peers and clients – including whether “truth still mattered?” and “is experience now a negative?” Ultimately, what does this all mean – if anything – for communication professionals?

My answer is yes…truth and behavior do still matter and there are basic communication rules that are still relevant. I think part of the answer is that elections are a special occasion where – for better or for worse – normal rules of conduct and communication are suspended. Passion, hyperbole and hype trump civility, dialogue and facts. Still, there are a few notable lessons from this election:

Communication means listening not just talking. Perhaps the most valuable lesson from this election is know your customer. By all accounts, the Democrats totally underestimated the angst and frustration among the electorate – including their own party – and stubbornly continued to push their agenda despite strong evidence it lacked resonance and popularity. It’s no surprise, therefore, that many appeared to tune out the White House and Democrat candidates during the election period.

Long-term relevance and credibility is about relationships. Wild accusations and demagoguery by self-appointed pundits may shift opinion during a campaign, but they are not the basis for long-term credibility. Sources that have a track record of solid, objective reporting and commentary have a better chance of a sustained profile and relationship with listeners. This has nothing to do with formal credentials or experience, and everything to do with integrity and responsibility. Beyond the media, voters will also remember the conduct and promises of the candidates, and they will also likely favor those that acted with consistency and honesty over time.

Tell your story. One of the primary criticisms of the Democrats during this election is that they failed to convincingly tell their story – whether it be explaining their agenda or detailing their achievements. It’s hard to argue with that assessment when a majority of Americans have incorrect notions on a wide number of government policies and issues (most notably that the TARP effort was a failure.) Facts do matter, but not if they are buried or delivered in the wrong format, context or channel. Opponents of the President were only too happy to fill this vacuum with their own story.

Choose your media platforms carefully. One of the striking lessons from this campaign is that the media landscape is increasingly fragmented and diverse. Americans appear to increasingly seek out media sources that are aligned with their political leanings or cultural preferences, and that includes social networks that allow for communication within narrow interest groups. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but it does create communication challenges for those seeking to reach across a broad segment of the population, rather than smaller communities or interest groups, or to gain the informal stamp of approval – the proverbial media hit – from a widely respected, influential outlet. It also raises serious questions about the accuracy of the information being shared, which ultimately harms the quality of the public discourse. On the positive side, this trend may drive organizations to find new, better ways to communicate directly with their constituents (or customers) rather than through third-parties.

Advertising still works…or it may not. It’s hard to uncover any immediate clues from the impact of the $2 billion in campaign advertising during the election, but clearly some of the biggest ad campaigns (hello Meg Whitman) didn’t work as intended. Hard to say if that was the candidate, message or medium, but clearly just repeating something ad nauseam does not change people’s mind or make them do something they don’t want to. There’s also evidence that ads or calls that were relevant or targeted were better received that spam or robo-call campaigns.

A bad story (or statement) can live forever. The ravenous 24-hour media cycle can spark and spread global coverage quickly – which is great when it’s a good story but terrible when it’s about a scandal, controversial statement or debate flub. Several volatile candidates likely suffered from their ill advised actions or claims. Even without the election glare and related “gotcha” mentality, leaders need to be keenly aware of the potential impact of their statements – whether written or spoken – and conduct. You can’t avoid honest mistakes, but preparation and crisis planning can help avert a bigger PR disaster.

Stick to your values & principles. The election environment is full of temptations around communication – attack your opponent, stretch the truth, cherry-pick your interviews, drill your message, make grand promises – but I still believe (naively perhaps) that corporate and political leaders should be guided as much by their values as their communication playbook. There’s nothing wrong with a communication strategy, of course, but building it on a framework without credibility is a mistake. What may seem like an expedient solution – whether during an election or corporate crisis – may permanently tarnish a reputation or brand, and ultimately is a disservice to loyal customers (or voters.)

A few news items from the past week or so confirm that the growth and evolution of social media is not  a linear or neat process. Take a look:
  • A global study by Nielsen found that average users spent 17% of their time on the internet visiting social networks and blogs, up from 6% a year ago. The study also found that year-over-year online advertising spending on the top social network and blogging sites increased 119 percent since August 2008.
  • This week the coach of Texas Tech football team Mike Leach banned the use of Twitter by his players – at any time – calling  Twitter and Facebook “stupid distractions” for narcissists. He added the Facebook pages of his players would now be closely monitored. The reason for the  ban appears to be recent Twitter posts by two players – including one that suggested coach Leach was late for a meeting.
  • The U.S. Government launched a new internal site making a range of social media tools and applications available for download and use. The online storefront will allow government agencies to browse and purchase cloud-based IT services – including Slideshare, Flickr,  Facebook and FriendFeed.
  • The venerable BBC in the UK has announced it is relaunching its websites with a strong focus on social media applications, notably adding capability for real-time comment on current news and embedding videos.
  • Google announced a new application – the Sidewiki – that allows users to add comments along websites, with one of Google’s mysterious algorithms ranking the comments by relevance and quality.

I draw a few conclusions from these updates:

  • Innovation continues to fuel a steady wave of new social media applications and ideas…and keeping track – let alone figuring out which ones will survive – is a daunting task;
  • While some are on the frontier and fully embracing social media, others continue to fight a rear-guard action that seems geared to protecting a “command and control” communication model;
  • The audience for the Web and social media tools alike continues to grow at a rapid clip;
  • There is still no magic formula for making money with/on social media platforms, but there are still plenty of investors that see huge financial potential in the technology.

I’ve been pleased to find increasing examples of organizations using social media tools to recruit talent – and in some cases to find and engage alumni. This is a new twist that goes beyond using  social media to engage employees already within the company. Many companies have used LinkedIn to post jobs, check references, engage alumni and find potential recruits. (In fact, I found my previous corporate job entirely through LinkedIn. ) But some companies are going beyond this strategy, including this one using  Twitter to throw its recruiting net.

What’s next in this trend? One strategy that seems to (finally) be getting traction is leveraging corporate groups on networks like Facebook. Many companies start out with monitoring the informal/rogue company groups, while others take a more proactive approach by adding an official voice to these networks or even creating their own virtual gathering place. The hope is that the folks on these networks help spread the word about job openings and/or recommend potential recruits through the on-line grapevine. Other companies try to leverage their presence in Second Life (or other virtual worlds) much like a virtual recruiting booth in colleges and job fairs. There are also plenty of recruiting videos posted on YouTube – like this one from Cisco – which range from very original to utterly predictable. And of course, companies have tried to influence – if not steer – relevant content on sites like Wikipedia and Vault, with mixed results.  Still, companies are clearly making an effort to join  the conversations and provide information that will feed into search results on the company.

Whatever the approach, it’s good to see more companies embracing new approaches to recruit talent.

As a Canadian, I have watched the presidential campaign in the United States with a detached fascination. As the campaign has progressed, I’ve become increasingly numbed and disappointed, and not just by the torrent of disingenuous and shrill attack campaign ads. What’s even more interesting – as a student of marketing and PR – is how the candidates have ignored some of the basic rules of communication – in particular the core tenets of marketing. If the candidates were being judged as brands competing in the marketplace – they would get very mixed reviews. Let’s review how they rank against some key elements of successful branding.

  • Focus: One of the central tenets of effective branding is having a clear, cogent brand identity. If customers (or voters) don’t have a clear sense of what you stand for, you have a serious problem. I would argue both candidates have muddled their identity and messages to the point where most voters are unclear what they really believe and what they stand for. Take McCain as an example. He starts the year as a renegade maverick who proudly bucks most of the Republican establishment. In the past few months, he has predictably softened his message on key issues and taken on the mantra as the Straight Talk Express. More recently, shaken by the implosion of the financial markets, he has apparently turned his back on decades of traditional Republican dogma about small government and free markets and remade himself a deathbed convert to regulation and Wall Street bashing. His focus on key issues has gone through a similar windmill depending on the vagaries of the campaign. Now he has belatedly joined Obama as the candidate for change and positioned himself as the real outsider. Whatever your political views on these twists and turns, it’s likely unclear to many what McCain stands for anymore…beyond perhaps getting elected. It doesn’t help, of course, that McCain’s opponent Obama is doing all he can to attack McCain’s positioning (see friend of George Bush ads) and protect his own turf.
  • Differentiation: As per the above, while both candidates are striving to carve out their distinctive positions (and inherent advantages as candidates) their drifting positions have likely made their pitches more diffuse and confusing.  Here’s a test: who is running as the most credible change agent, Washington outsider and somebody who no allegiance to lobbyists? Yes…both of them. This one should be easy given the inherent polarization of politics and electoral campaigns, but aside from splits on a few fundamental issues the candidates are stepping on the same platform.  
  • Credibility: This is a tough one given the inevitable histrionics and exaggeration of political campaigns, but even by those low standards of probity I would suggest the aggressively partisan advertising – which is usually quickly debunked by most impartial fact-checkers – seriously erodes the credibility of both candidates. It’s never a good thing when voters (or customers) expect most of what you say to be only distantly related to the truth.
  • Consistency: See comments above. Even the most ardent political junkie would be hard pressed to keep track of the protean positions of the two candidates. It’s fine to adjust your position on key issues, but another thing altogether to do so for political expediency. The only thing that is consistent is the reactive and poll-driven messaging. I would also give Obama some credit for being consistent about his campaign theme and core messages – despite pressure from insiders to change it when the polls dip.
  • Relevance: Most brand stewards stive to get to know their customers and respond to their desires and aspirations so they’ll buy your products or services. In politics, you use the same method to get their votes rather than their money. Given the amount of polling involved in this campaign, it’s clear the campaigns are working hard to be relevant to the voters…all the way down to specific voter segments or even neighborhoods. I’d have to give them decent marks on this one – in fact this may be one area where marketing has something to learn from politics.
  • Third-party (customer) endorsement: Though the parties and candidates have thousand of passionate fans, it’s much harder to find impartial supporters who are not partisan or dogmatic. It does appear Obama has generated genuine enthusiasm among many who have not traditionally voted, so give him higher marks for creating buzz outside the traditional Democratic circles.
  • Positive word-of-mouth: See point above. Plenty of noise and ardent cheer-leading but it’s not clear how much is real or will last beyond the election.   
  • Compelling advertising: Though many pundits claim critical campaign advertising is effective it’s clear that most of the advertising we’ve seen in this campaign has been formulaic and largely lacking in creativity and imagination. You know the type: highly critical attack ads that stick closely to the tried-and-true formula of dramatic banner headlines and splashy visuals. No subtlety here. Ads that break the monotony (and cacophony) are very rare…I can’t honestly recall one that stuck out. And there lies a major flaw of these campaigns – they are hopelessly predictable. Even if they work and some of the mud sticks – which is debatable – I firmly believe they ultimately erode the reputation and credibility of the candidates rather than enhance it. 

Of course, unlike the real world one of these candidates will end up making the sale – and getting elected – no matter what they do. That’s lucky for them, because if they were in an open marketplace they may not close the deal.

Over the past few months, I’ve been involved in a few corporate job searches (including some for my own team) that require talented communicators who have experience with social media. Should be easy, right? This is one of the most important trends impacting marketing and communication in years and has fueled endless hype and soul-searching in several professions. But not so fast. The reality – from my humble observation as a hiring manager in communications – is that there are very few professionals who can legitimately claim to understand both PR and social media. Part of the reason for this is few companies are actually involved in social media (recent reports suggest only 15% of Fortune 500 companies have blogs), so the number of professionals with hands-on experience in the field is still very limited. What does exist – based on the resumes I’m getting – is a range of highly specialized workers who aren’t necessary appropriate for a Web 2.0 communication gig: web designers and architects; IT experts who understand the technology but not the strategy; technical writers; renegade bloggers; old-school communication experts; and, intranet or Web writers. Very rarely will you find somebody with skills and experience that cross across the technical, practical and strategic sides of the equation.

Most of the folk I have found with this rare mix are in agencies, who seem much further ahead than their corporate cousins on this topic. This is probably as it should be – PR and specialized agencies should be on the cutting-edge after all. And I’ve had great experience with importing agency talent into a corporate gig. But no matter who I hire, the sad reality is that there are still few professionals who have the experience and aptitude to help companies navigate into social media. I’m hoping that changes over the coming years.

“You can’t handle the truth!”. Many of us remember that famous line shouted so eloquently by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. In recent weeks I’ve had several discussions with peers and colleagues that ask whether this quote is accurate when it comes to sharing information with employees. One example: sharing the results of an employee survey.

Here is the scenario. Assume you have just conducted an annual global survey of employees for a global company. The workforce is slightly cynical about the process due to uneven communication and lack of visible follow-up during previous surveys.  Sharing the highlights of the results – and focusing on driving tangible changes based on the findings – is a given. So is using all relevant communication channels, including regional and local managers, to cascade the information. But here’s where it gets less certain. Would you make most the data available to all employees, to peruse or compare at their leisure? Should you allow them to review customized reports with breakdowns by country, function or role? Would all this result in information overload and competitive sniping or foster a new sense of transparency and trust?

Here’s where we came down on this issue. Given the latent cynicism of employees regarding surveys in particular (and management in general) the default should always be to share information – or at least make it available – unless there is a good reason not to. In the case of surveys, one could reasonably argue the information is better presented with the proper context and with the right level of detail and local customization. It also helps to have key leaders take a personal role in the communication process to emphasize their personal interest and accountability. But it also sends an important message if in addition to the proactive communication process the company allows any employee to access relevant data or reports (for example on a dedicated website.)

There should be limits to this transparency, however. The obvious one is to protect the confidentiality of respondents and not present detailed data that allows close comparisons beyond (or really below) the major functions or regions, since that might create dissension and/or invite criticisms of specific teams or managers. The other is to ensure employees understand the information is confidential and not for external distribution. But beyond that the onus should be on opening the windows, so to speak.

Many discussions involving the issue of transparency with employees implicitly suggest most employees are not capable of fully understanding information unless it’s fully “digested” for them, or not responsible enough to have access to the data – with the inference they will use it to attack managers, foster dissension or even leak the information. The inference is usually based on the employees’ level and job function (white collar is ok, blue collar is not.) Though there will always be bad apples in any company, in my 20 years of experience I’ve never seen compelling evidence that a majority of employees will abuse the priviledge of candor, or that the risk outweighs the benefits. And I’m don’t necessarily buy the logic that the workforce can be easily divided into white or blue collar (or front-line) workers. Some would argue age, or generational divisions, is much more relevant. 

No matter the workforce, the role of the communication professional is to find the right balance between candor and overload, and the best way to share information and foster relevant dialogue. It’s also critical that we strive to be relevant and responsive, so the communication process is a dialogue rather than a one-way street. But the default should always be to give employees the benefit of the doubt and treat them like intelligent, trustworthy partners. That’s the only way we can build credibility in the process (and leadership team) and drive employee engagement.

I continue to be fascinated by what appears to be a huge gap between the reality of the market and what I see on television advertising. Take automobile ads. For months now, we’ve been reading about disastrous financial results for the Big 3 automakers (and even some of their competitors) as customers move away from gas-guzzling SUVs and macho trucks. The CEOs of these companies are finally acknowledging that their business model is broken, and are belatedly changing their product lines, manufacturing priorities and supply strategies.  So where does that leave their advertising? Apparently, firmly entrenched in 2002.

I’ve made no secret that I think most automobile advertising is depressingly timid, repetitive and devoid of creativity. But now the marketing also appears to be hopelessly out of sync with reality. In the past few weeks I continue to see numerous TV ads pushing trucks, SUVs and beautiful vistas. The push for large vehicles seem to vastly outnumber those for newer models (like Ford’s Edge.)  Even Toyota has been relentlessly pushing their Tundra, their version of a truck behemoth. The one campaign that stuck out to me was, ironically, the pitch that Chrysler would guarantee 3 years of locked gas prices for buyers. How’s that for delaying the inevitable.  

Even acknowledging the fact many of these campaigns were purchased and developed months ago and there is a built-in lag in the system, it’s surprising to see the torrent of advertising that appears oblivious to the existing reality. And most importantly, they are clearly not working. The Honda Civic has become the hottest selling model and smaller, fuel efficient cars are booming in popularity. This past quarter the U.S. auto firms reported decreases in sales ranging from 20% to almost 40%. The Big 3 appear to be mortally wounded, bleeding money and seemingly unable to change their fortunes. Perhaps their archaic advertising is part of the problem.