Perhaps you’ve noticed, by its absence, that there isn’t any advertising for Tesla products. Elon Musk is pretty good at generating buzz without having to pay for it. For example, a number of media organizations recentlyÂ ran the newsÂ thatÂ Musk took the advice given to him by a fifth-grade girl â€” via her dad’s Twitter account â€” on how to publicize his electric cars.
Bria Loveday had a school assignment involving writing and mailing a letter to a noted person and, the way the story goes, she chose Musk. In her letter she noted that while Tesla doesn’t advertise, a number of Tesla enthusiasts have produced their own entertaining commercials for the EV maker, and Bria suggested that Tesla hold a contest for the best one. The winner would get his or her ad aired and then receive some kind of prize like a free year’s worth of supercharging at a Tesla station.
In her letter, by way of explaining her interest in electric cars, she just happened to mention that her father is an automotive writer for InsideEVs.com and U.S. News and World Report. Her father, Steven Loveday, also contributes to applecarfans.com, and his day job is teaching art at the Art Institute of Michigan.
It’s a well-written letter, but how much attention is paid to paper mail these days is open to question. In the mailed letter, she informed Musk that her dad would also send him a copy via Twitter, “to make it easier to respond.” Her dad subsequently tweeted an image of the letter to Musk.
It worked, and Musk actually responded positively, tweeting back, “Thank you for the lovely letter. That sounds like a great idea. We’ll do it!”
Now, it isn’t clear if, “We’ll do it!” refers to the user-generated advertising contest idea or Bria’s postscript asking for a Tesla t-shirt, but Bria nonetheless did an outstanding job in her class assignment and I, for one, think she deserves an A (even if I’m 100 percent sure her dad helped at least a little bit on this school project).
Don’t get me wrong, I may be a cynic and a skeptic, but I’m also a father and I don’t think Steven Loveday did anything wrong. My dad helped me build science fair projects that I designed. Loveday taught his daughter how to get things done. If I was in Steven’s position, I would have done the same. Actually, as matter of fact, I’ve done pretty much the same thing that Mr. Loveday did, though I didn’t have an automotive writing career to promote at the time.*
It was more than 20 years ago. At the time, my son â€” my only son â€” Moshe, whom I love, was about the same age as Bria is now. I bought a scale model kit for a Dodge Viper to build with him. Mo loved building stuff out of Legos, but he had a tendency to rush into things and I wanted to teach him a little patience. With a plastic model kit you have to wait for glue to dry before proceeding with the next step.
We were putting together the suspension, I believe, when Mo asked me, “Abba, is this the way real Vipers go together?”
I replied, “Well, it’s a detailed model, but no, they don’t go together exactly this way but the factory where they build them is in Detroit. The president of Chrysler is a man named Robert Lutz. His office is in Highland Park. I’ll get you the address and you can write him a letter asking if your class can take a field trip to see them build Vipers.”
Moshe wrote the letter and even addressed the envelope. I might have made a few suggestions about what to say but Mo used his own words. Three weeks later I got a phone call at work from someone who identified himself as the general manager of manufacturing for Chrysler. I’ve lived around Detroit my entire life and that’s pretty high up in the food chain, so I figured it didn’t have anything to do with the repeated transmission problems on our ’91 minivan. He told me that Mo’s letter “got more attention than something from President Clinton,” and that it was a good thing my son had addressed the envelope with his child’s scrawl because the same letter from an adult would have “gone in the circular file.”
The upshot was 50 fifth graders, with no shortage of parents volunteering to chaperone, got a VIP tour of the Viper factory.
I hope Bria gets her t-shirt. Mo and I still have ours, adorned the Viper logo.
*There’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion. Mr. Loveday’s paychecks feed little Bria.