“Hello, I’m the new Karl Greenberg” is how I went about introducing myself to the marketing and PR folks I met during the media days at the New York Auto Show, which occurred a few weeks after I took over the auto beat at MediaPost. It became comical after awhile to see what tack they would take in responding to me. About 50% said, “You look nothing like Karl,” which is very true.
The funny thing is, for a decent amount of time in the late ’90s/early 2000s, Karl and I were both on the auto beat and often helped each other out since he was on the “blue team” at Brandweek and I was on the “red team” at Adweek. Back then, we came at stories from different perspectives, with Karl taking more of the client-centric perspective for Brandweek while I focused on the agency side of the story.
I left Adweek for law school about the same time Karl hopped over to MediaPost. I ended up freelancing for MediaPost while in law school, and soon after I finished, I became the editor of Online Media Daily, where I stayed for a couple of years. When I ended up at Marketing Daily, Karl was already in the auto beat seat, so I took on a slew of other beats — including financial services, travel, pharma and pets — which I have enjoyed very much. When Karl decided to leave for — as we in journalism like to call it — the dark side (a public relations job) — I was pleased to throw my hat in the ring to take over his position.
Besides Adweek, I also covered the auto beat at Ward’s Automotive Reports and Ward’s AutoWorld. It was there that I really became indoctrinated in the industry, covering weekly production, sales and regulatory issues.
Unlike Karl, who is based in New York, I’m based in Detroit, where I have lived my entire life. My father worked in the plant as a blue-collar worker for General Motors and my grandmother worked on the assembly line at Dodge Main for Chrysler. But I am not biased toward the Detroit automakers. When I was test driving cars at Ward’s, I would take them to my parents’ home and my father would come out to the driveway to check them all out, no matter what the manufacturer. I won’t lie, he was always more interested in the GM models, probably because he might consider buying one with his employee discount.
I have good memories having to do with many non-Detroit automakers. I learned to drive a manual transmission on a Mitsubishi Eclipse. I was thrilled to be flown in a tiny prop plane down to Toyota’s Georgetown assembly plant for a story. I drove the then-brand new Audi A4 across Germany, Austria and Hungary while on a press junket. I drove a Nissan Sentra across the California mountains between Dana Point and Palm Springs during another ride and drive. Lately, Subaru has been holding a special place in my heart because of their focus on pets, both in their commercials and in designing their vehicles.
When it comes down to it, I’m just here to report the news, no matter which automaker it comes from. The car business has changed some during my hiatus, but ultimately what I’m writing about is still the same: How automakers are creating what they hope is compelling marketing that will make customers consider buying their vehicle. I’m looking forward to taking another spin around the block.