September 14, 2004


Oprah's Product Placement (Alyce Lomax, September 14, 2004, Motley Fool)

Will Oprah Winfrey drive Pontiacs into pop culture popularity? Maybe so, considering Oprah -- whom we recently crowned "Investment Guru" -- gave away 276 Pontiac G6 2005 sports sedans to her entire studio audience for her season premiere on Monday. The recipients were handpicked as people whose families and friends had written to Oprah stating that they needed new cars, making it an episode about aspirations and wish fulfillment.

Though Oprah seems to get much of the credit for the giveaway, General Motors (NYSE: GM) donated the cars, which retail for $28,000 each.

For GM, this is a pretty savvy version of product placement in a world where people can easily buzz through commercials with their digital video recorders, such as my personal favorite new technology, TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO). (Meanwhile, news reports from early this month that Oprah had toured some GM plants were likely a good hint that something was up some sleeves -- it also implies that Oprah does her homework when she's about to give a product a high profile.)

It does so warm the cockles of a skeptical heart to discover the mercenary reasons behind a seemingly selfless act.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 14, 2004 4:18 PM

Well, it's more than USA Today reported on.

Where are all those smart journalism students from the 70s?

Posted by: jim hamlen at September 14, 2004 4:38 PM

You mean like the one that was my girlfriend who went to journalism and then on to law school?

Posted by: Ray Clutts at September 14, 2004 5:14 PM

That is reassuring. I got the impression she bought them herself.

Posted by: David Hill, The Bronx at September 14, 2004 6:17 PM

Hopefully, GM won't be hit with some future Pontiac recall for a major safety hazard, or the trial lawyers will come running at the studio audience members hoping to file a two-fer lawsuit (and John Edwards won't have anything to do anyway by the time such a scenario would roll around).

Posted by: John at September 14, 2004 8:16 PM

Lots of folks now have free cars without personal generosity having been a factor in their self-improvement.

Adam Smith would recognize this.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 14, 2004 10:16 PM

The G6 invoices at $26K. Edmunds is showing the car at a cash price of $27.5K. The recipient will get a 1099 and owe tax on the value (probably sticker because they are jerks) of the car. so it will not be free.

I personally would not buy the G6 at that price. The Accord is much better and quite a bit cheaper. And for a few dollars more you can buy a Accura TL, BMW 325, Jaguar X-type or Audi-A4, any of which are much nicer and will depreciate more slowly.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at September 15, 2004 1:31 AM

Good point about the tax situation, although I would assume that for many of these families, EIC, Child Tax Credits, and the like would zero out the extra two, three grand owed.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 15, 2004 8:02 PM