Gini Dietrich

Flying Car Creates PR Controversy

By: Gini Dietrich | April 17, 2012 | 

Remember when we were kids and we had this vision that someday everyone would be driving a flying car?

Maybe it started with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and was influenced even more by the Jetsons. Wherever it started, I just knew in my lifetime the roads would be in the sky.

Well, we’re not quite there yet (don’t worry, my lifetime isn’t over), but there is a flying car on the market!

Granted, it’s $200,000, you need a pilot’s license to drive it, and there isn’t an infrastructure in the sky for flying cars, but it’s here.

And it’s gaining a lot of media attention. 

Terrafugia (Latin for “escape the earth”) is being billed as a small aircraft that you land at the airport, “fold your wings up and drive home.”

It’s as simple as that, apparently!

But is it really just a big pile of spin?

First of all, it’s not really a flying car. It’s an airplane that drives like a car.

Secondly, there really is no infrastructure in the skies for a flying car. Sure, you can take off and land at an airport, but (in my mind) that defeats the purpose. I want to sit through a couple of lights, turn onto Lakeshore Drive, pick up some speed, and get up into the air. But there isn’t anything that exists up there to manage the traffic.

The guys who invented the flying car (er, driving airplane) are scientists. They don’t work with an agency. They didn’t expect the media response to their invention. I mean, their news releases are in PDF format on their website. They have NO idea what they’re doing, from a PR perspective.

Victor Cruz, principal at MediaPR, wrote last week:

Innovation makes the world go round, but innovation is mostly about exploring the end of a dead end road if its application is deemed impractical, unrealistic, unfeasible, eventually untenable, and in this case, groundless. It’s painful enough to get city hall to issue a permit for a backyard lawnmower shed. How does the Government regulate safety in the air at 1,400 feet? Where’s the green story and noise pollution story? The public won’t have it. They fight against wind turbines off Cape Cod. Many problems loom in the sky. Despite its sell-out of all 100 pre-orders, most people are probably smirking, “Not in my time.”

I agree innovation makes the world go round, but not that this won’t happen in our time. If these guys can build something people really want – even at $279,000 – it will force the FAA to create infrastructure in the sky.

If we were working with Terrafugia, we’d keep creating content around the flying car (er, driving airplane). We’d interview the 100 people who bought the car and develop video testimonials. We’d continue getting people excited in order to increase demand and force the FAA to pay attention.

It’s going to happen someday. Maybe it will be in our lifetime; maybe not. It’s a huge pipe dream – cars in the sky – and these guys believe they can do it.

If a PR firm believes it’s a better form of transportation, why not work to help these guys make it happen?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

  • Pretty cool. I’m just shocked that Little Miss Culturally Deprived actually knows about the Jetsons and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

    • ginidietrich

       @KenMueller Let’s be real. I didn’t discover either until I left home.

  • SteelToad

    “I want my flying car”. Yeah, 200,000 is steep, and I’ll probably never get one, and that’s a real bummer. You’re right about their pdf, it reads more like the description you get from a kid at Christmas when you ask what they got, rather that the store salesman’s description of what he sold. But … twice you say that there is no infrastructure up there for traffic and this simply isn’t the case at all. There is the worldwide network of thousands of VOR towers , to give the traffic direction, rules dictating which altitudes you must be in to travel in particular directions (to prevent collisions), beacons indicating area hazzards, air traffic control systems in major an mid level towns, gps navigation, and thousands more beacons for systems replacing the VOR system. There is far more, and far more advanced infrastructure up in the air than there is at ground level. But even with all that it’s enough to scare me into staying on the ground, thinking of some of the people I see driving being able to take to the air.

  • Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.

    • ginidietrich

       @Anthony_Rodriguez LOL! Ba da dum.

    •  @Anthony_Rodriguez beat me to it. But as soon as I started reading that line popped in  my head!

      •  @sydcon_mktg I don’t know anything about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang but Back to the Future is one of my faves.

        •  @Anthony_Rodriguez Hmmm, @ginidietrich are we showing our age talking about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?? Back to the Future is huge here in our house…my hubby’s favorite!!! 

  • Interesting response from the inventors re: their surprise about the media attention. Either a.) they didn’t know to care, b.) too busy creating the thing or c.) the understand that being first with an oddity like this attracts attention.  Now that they have it, they’ll need some kind of structured program.

    • ginidietrich

       @BobReed They’re scientists…I’m not sure their brains are wired to care.

      •  @ginidietrich True.  And have you ever tried to talk marketing and PR with engineers?  Brutal. 

        • ginidietrich

           @BobReed We have one client made up entirely of engineers. The reason it works so well is they know what they don’t know about PR and marketing and vice versa. It’s actually kind of fun! But yeah…in most cases it is brutal.

    •  @BobReed I was thinking this too. Even if they are scientists and don’t care, have they never seen a movie set in the future? “Flying cars” are cool! Of course it would get attention.

  • I’m ready to shoot those videos after you get a call from them. 🙂
    –Tony Gnau

    • ginidietrich

       @T60Productions Deal!

  • I don’t have a pilot’s license. I wouldn’t know how to drive it. But I want one. And I sort of love that the scientist dudes didn’t know about PR. There’s something endearing about that.
    Your point about creating a lot of content to pressure the FAA to pay attention is a good one. I personally loved how Jason Segal made The Muppets movie happen because he just really wanted to. He kept talking about how it was going to happen, before the studio had signed off, simply because he believed others would get excited about the idea. It worked. And by the way – I love The Muppets!! So I was one of those people who got really, really excited. 🙂

    • ginidietrich

       @jeanniecw I love the Muppets, too! But how long was that song at the end stuck in your head after you saw it? Wacka, wacka.
      A couple of years ago, I spoke to a Vistage group and the members gave me a really hard time…saying this whole web thing is a fad. They were just giving me a hard time, but one of the members stopped me as I was leaving and said, “It’s hard to pave the way to new ideas. You have to hold the lantern, carve the path, make sure there are no monsters, and be the first to get hurt if something happens.” I’ll never forget that…an that’s what I think of when I read about these guys.
      We will have flying cars for the masses someday. I love they’re carving the path to get us there. And I wanna do their PR!

  • Infrastructure in the sky is being worked on and has for the past few years 8) And there are a ton of personal aircraft in development right now. Buzzlightyear here we come.

    • ginidietrich

       @HowieSPM It’s so freaking cool!

  • Mr.D

    I wish you were working with them! I want one!!!

  • Mr.D

    I wish you were working with them! I want one!!! How do we make this happen?

  • cxohuerta

    I can’t believe no one mentioned Harry Potter’s flying car – seems like that would be the most recent inspiration for these scientists.

    • ginidietrich

       @cxohuerta I can’t even think when he had a flying car. The broom, yes. But car? I’m drawing a blank!

      •  @ginidietrich  @cxohuerta Oh yes, Ron & Harry flying Mr. Weasly’s car!!!

    •  @cxohuerta They have been working on this more or less 30 years.

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  • “Innovation is not scarce. Entrepreneurship is scarce. We are spending billions and wasting years of conversations on innovation and it isn’t paying off. Great business people are more valuable and rarer than great ideas.”
    So says Jim Clifton in “The Coming Jobs War”  This is how we restructure the economy to get to whatever lifts us out of the Depression.  We have to do a lot of things differently – and do a few things we’re not used to doing.  You have highlighted something your profession has to be a part of, and thank you for it!  But there are many more examples out there where so many things have to come together in ways we aren’t used to.
    My favorite example is Capstone Micro-Turbines – which could easily be at the heart of a 100 MPG car, a turbine hybrid.  But there are many pieces that need a bit of a nudge and they have to fit together.  A minivan at 80 MPG has already been built as a first generation, but much more needs to be done.  Resources put into this could liberate our economy like little else, but have you even heard of them?  

    • ginidietrich

       @wabbitoid The only way we can create jobs is to come up with new things. Entrepreneurs are the only ones to do that…I agree with Clifton. As you create new needs, people get jobs.

  • I live in the car capitol of the world. I am a native Angeleno and have had the pleasure of driving in every big city in the US and many throughout the world.
    I mention this because while I very much want a flying car I am more than  bit concerned about the crazy folks I see on the road, let alone in the air.
    Air rage in a flying car…oy.

    • ginidietrich

       @TheJackB I always take the El because of the crazy Chicago drivers. So I hear you. But I still want one!

      •  @ginidietrich It would be cool.

  • Leon

    G’Day Gini,
    3D is back. Now it’s Flying Car time again too. Did you know that the Flying Car was first mooted in “Popular Mechanics” in the late 1920s? That’s over 80 years ago. 3D dates back to the 1920s too. Seems that every time 3D splutters into life again, the Flying Car is never far behind. 
    It’s an idea whose time has come…and come..and come…..but has never quite arrived.
    If this is innovation, what’s creativity?
    I think that they’re just having fun. Didn’t April 1 pass recently?
    Tell ya what. It’ll cause a huge boom in the garage extension industry.
    Best Wishes from the New Rainbow Connection 

    • ginidietrich

       @Leon Oh it’s coming! I just know it.

  • Now what I am waiting for is a flux capacitor so I can bring my Delorean back in time… can you get me hooked up with your client who makes them @ginidietrich 

    • ginidietrich

       @jeffespo Yes!

  • I scrapped my design for flying cars awhile back once I realized the FAA would have to get involved. But it would be PR gold! I’m now focused more on my solar generator device 🙂

    • ginidietrich

       @SociallyGenius Go back to it, will ya?

  • Robb_Wexler

    Rut roh Rorge. Of course it would be much easier to wave someone around if they are going too slow.And  how you would you distinguish a flying car horn from a honking goose?These are the things that keep me up at night. Well this and too many malted milk balls.

    • ginidietrich

       @Robb_Wexler Maybe you could invent a new horn!

  • NancyCawleyJean

    I still have hopes that I can be Judy Jetson and fly around in very own some day!!!

    • ginidietrich

       @NancyCawleyJean @Robb_Wexler The two of you concern with your Judy Jetson fantasies.

  • Robb_Wexler

    I think when I was a teenager I had a crush on Judy Jetson. That could NOT have been healthy.

  • MarkWilliams

    I wonder what “air rage” would look like, the old WWII dog fights?

    • ginidietrich

       @MarkWilliams Oh! Yeah…what would tailing look like?

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