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Merry Oprahmas
September 13, 2004 4:09 PM   Subscribe

Oprah I've never cared for her. Except today she gave away 276 new cars to her studio audience, members of which were selected based on need. I now like Oprah. A lot.
posted by Ynoxas (169 comments total)

 
Umm, they're Pontiacs. No thanks.
posted by PrinceValium at 4:13 PM on September 13, 2004


Pepsi blue, whatever. The woman (along with the good people at Pontiac) just gave away like $7 million worth of cars to people who needed them.

This is what rich and powerful people should be doing with their time and influence.
posted by Ynoxas at 4:13 PM on September 13, 2004 [1 favorite]


Do these needy people now owe taxes on the car?
posted by Sangre Azul at 4:17 PM on September 13, 2004


Philanthropy... or product placement?

She wanted to see for herself what the audience was getting. So, Oprah toured the GM® plant in Michigan and test drove the G6™!

Hmm.
posted by reklaw at 4:18 PM on September 13, 2004


They can always sell the car to pay the taxes. What do they need more, a new car or the money?
posted by smackfu at 4:21 PM on September 13, 2004 [1 favorite]


Sangre Azul (you everloving cynic), according to the CNN article:
The cars, which retail for $28,000, were donated by Pontiac.
"A little idea grew into a big idea," Mary Henige of Pontiac told The Associated Press.
She added that Pontiac will pay for the taxes and the customizing of the cars.
(By the way, what's with the text ads for seeking G-d's help with h-mosexuality [dashes so as not to unduly influence them]).
posted by rafter at 4:21 PM on September 13, 2004


Rats, foiled again!

(Seriously, that's pretty awesome of Oprah to do this, shameless ad plugging or no.)
posted by Sangre Azul at 4:23 PM on September 13, 2004


Philanthropy... or product placement?

I'm sure GM helped a bit. But, I doubt they paid for 276 of them for that rather small product placement. (She probably would have said they were provided by GM.)

She's a pretty giving individual -- doesn't surprise me.
posted by dawiz at 4:24 PM on September 13, 2004


Pontiac will pay for the taxes and the customizing of the cars.

customizing?
posted by quonsar at 4:27 PM on September 13, 2004


Philanthropy... or product placement?
Philanthropy and product placement.
way of the world... way of the world.
posted by seanyboy at 4:29 PM on September 13, 2004


Oprah only recently put up a few million for the construction of a Boys and Girls Club in my hometown, which also happens to be her birthplace - Kosciusko, Miss. That fact wasn't well-broadcast, outside of said town. This is a very small town, mind you, with around 8,000 residents, about an hour from the nearest metro area (Jackson, the state capital).

She might (well, does) love attention, and might be responsible for too many politicians trying to get all weepy and personal and loving (even if they aren't) on us, etc., but she's done the world a lot of good all the same.
posted by raysmj at 4:33 PM on September 13, 2004


customizing?

I wondered that too. Like, bumper stickers that say "I attended an Oprah taping and all I got was this lousy Pontiac"?
posted by Dipsomaniac at 4:35 PM on September 13, 2004


customizing?
I'm guessing that they mean they'll fit the cars up special for the disabled people who get the cars, but the part of me that says things I shouldn't really say wants to add that it's for hydraulics, spoilers alloys, fat exhaust pipes, ICE and undercar fluorescent lighting. You know, for "the hood".
posted by seanyboy at 4:35 PM on September 13, 2004


dude, all nice people just love attention
posted by Satapher at 4:36 PM on September 13, 2004


So now she's tying pork chops around her neck to get the dogs to play with her?
posted by Trik at 4:38 PM on September 13, 2004


customizing?

Quonsasr, you gotta watch to the end of the video, where Bubb Rubb comes out with a shopping cart full of whistler tips. Ya gots ta have the woo-WOO!
posted by planetkyoto at 4:40 PM on September 13, 2004


Philanthropic product placement.

(Note--the above goes well to the tune of "Deutschland Uber Alles").
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:44 PM on September 13, 2004


i'm watching it right now... no one does give aways like oprah does, it's so much fun to see people get something they need but can't afford. i have to admit it's really choking me up watching this young woman who's managed to survive being motherless and homeless get a full college scholarship, a new wardrobe, and that brand new car. *sniff*
posted by t r a c y at 4:46 PM on September 13, 2004


276 out of how many people in this country who desperately need some help? Should we be fawning over a cheap publicity stunt, or talking about how small a drop in the bucket this really is?
posted by kjh at 4:47 PM on September 13, 2004


What this article fails to mention however, is the previous episode's studio audience that decided on door #2.

They chose... poorly.
posted by Stan Chin at 4:53 PM on September 13, 2004


You're right, kjh. No more change for the buskers, either. It's just not BIG ENOUGH.

Get back to me when you get around to solving every single problem in the country.
posted by cortex at 4:55 PM on September 13, 2004 [2 favorites]


Nice idea Oprah..let's analyze for the shake of clarity

1. Pontiac probably wrote off the production cost (around $10K or less I guess ?) or the market value costs as donation (any U.S. accountant here?).

2. Pontiac (wisely,imho) choosed not to give that money to an advertising agency, channeling the car advertisement trought Oprah.

3. Pontiac promised to pay taxes..I suppose for the life of the car ? I guess/hope so..if it's needy people they need every dime.

4. Considering car immediate de-evaluation after the car is first used, I guess the owners could sell the car (assuming that they didn't enter a contract NOT to sell the car before some time) at 80-70% the market price.

For shake of simplicty, +276 are now a little less piss poor. Good, very good..fine job Oprah. Nice write off and andvertisement, Pontiac.

Personally, I would have done the following
1. Give the car as above, forbid them from selling , maximizing the car exposure to public.
2.Pay em extra 10 thousand real money to pay for documented debts (car,health insurance, other important stuff).
3. Wrote off entirely as donation

The point is : the people received a good valued at 28000, personally I'd rather have real money then a good that's going to lose value very soon, but they surely can thank Oprah for this good idea.
posted by elpapacito at 4:56 PM on September 13, 2004


Sure, kjh, if we can't help everybody, we may as well help nobody, right?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:05 PM on September 13, 2004 [1 favorite]


What a bunch of fucking Scrooges.

Yes, you. You know who you are.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:10 PM on September 13, 2004


Why are you people such jerks about this? WHO CARES if it didn't mean a lot of money to Pontiac and they get a write-off? Who CARES if Oprah gets some publicity out of it? WHY DOES THAT MATTER?

The fact of the matter is, she just made 276 people's lives easier. She also, during this episode, gave a woman who's been living on the streets since she was 13 years old and graduated from high school a make-over, $10,000 worth of clothes, and a full scholarship (plus room, board, books) to any university of her dreams.

Plus, she also gave a woman and man who have been foster parents to over 45 kids (mostly the kids of drug addicts) $100,000 to buy the house they live in (they were going to be evicted at the end of Sept.), $30,000 to fix it up, and a whole household full of new furniture, washer/dryer, tv, toys, stuff like that.

By the way...she took care of all the taxes on this stuff.
So be as nasty and cynical as you want. But show me how this is, in any way, a bad thing. Drop the cynical nastiness and just revel in how these people's lives are better now.

Jesus, people. Would you rather she did nothing? Would that make you happier?
posted by aacheson at 5:10 PM on September 13, 2004


Nice idea Oprah..let's analyze for the shake of clarity

276 out of how many people in this country who desperately need some help? Should we be fawning over a cheap publicity stunt, or talking about how small a drop in the bucket this really is?

Yeah! Lazy slackers! Fuck the poor! In my day, if you wanted $25,000 in prizes, you had to at least eat a bucket of Joe Rogan's sperm for it!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:13 PM on September 13, 2004


Screw Hillary in 2008 - I want to see Oprah on the ballot! I'm dead freaking serious. She'd win by a landslide.
posted by photoslob at 5:13 PM on September 13, 2004


Twice a year Oprah also does a "Favorite Things" show, where she discusses her favorite shoppable items (handbags, iPods, shoes, etc.) and gives one of everything to everyone in the audience.

These shows aren't announced in advance; if you're in the studio audience, you basically find out when the show starts. At this point you will probably scream and scream and scream.

Can't say I blame you, or Oprah. TV has always been about priming your desire for things to buy. I remember people in game shows screaming just as loud when the announcer finished saying "...a brand new CAR!"

The Oprah show's not my thing, but she has done enough good with her earnings that she has my respect.
posted by kurumi at 5:14 PM on September 13, 2004


elpapacito... the taxes are the fed income taxes you have to pay for winning prizes. it is a one-time shot but it is 28% of the value of the prize [I don't know how state income taxes, or property taxes would fit in, but it is significant].

I think Oprah's production company got a great deal on the cars and Pontiac's promotions department just shot through its budget for a while.

and kjh, it is just t.v. show and it was a prize. This is a good promotion and it got a lot of ink. It isn't like Oprah claimed to solve all the world's problems with this.

I'm not an Oprah fan, but I do respect her for her long record of giving away a lot of Oprah money. If other media magnates could do that, maybe I could get a new car!
posted by birdherder at 5:20 PM on September 13, 2004


Why are you people such jerks about this?

Because it makes them feel better about themselves.
posted by jonmc at 5:21 PM on September 13, 2004


I totally understand that many of you people have completely lost the ability to see the good in people. But holy shit.

She used her (a) money, of which she has tons, and/or (b) influence, of which she has tons, to engineer a random act of kindness for a couple hundred people.

She did something smart and nice, and all you people can do is take a shit on it. Seriously.

I'd wish that nothing this nice ever happens to any of you, but with attitudes like you people have, I'm not too concerned that it ever would.
posted by chicobangs at 5:22 PM on September 13, 2004


I think Oprah's production company got a great deal on the cars and Pontiac's promotions department just shot through its budget for a while.

Pontiac actually donated all the cars, from the articles I read. That's typically the case for most product-placed shows. The Price is Right gives out easily prizes worth millions on a daily basis; almost everything is donated by the companies.

Besides, isn't one of the things about Oprah that she goes batshit like, every other episode and gives the audience stuff?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:27 PM on September 13, 2004


The point is, it's silly to pretend this is a "random act of kindness" when it's actually worth tons in promotional value to both Oprah and Pontiac. Pontiac want you to feel good about their cars; Oprah has given them a useful way of doing so. It's better than using the money for ads, but hardly worthy of any more praise than Pontiac giving the cars away in a free prize draw or something.
posted by reklaw at 5:29 PM on September 13, 2004


I'd wish that nothing this nice ever happens to any of you, but with attitudes like you people have, I'm not too concerned that it ever would.

I kiss your face, chicobangs.

It's better than using the money for ads, but hardly worthy of any more praise than Pontiac giving the cars away in a free prize draw or something.

Except that Oprah et al. at least tried to make sure that the cars went to people whose own vehicles were falling apart and couldn't afford to be replaced, as opposed to some rich schlub who enters a drawing at the mall to win a car to supplement the 3 he's already got.
posted by ChrisTN at 5:33 PM on September 13, 2004


Yes, Pontiac donated the cars. And SBC is paying the woman's tuition. And The Limited donated her clothes. And Best Buy and Crate & Barrell donated the household to the foster parents. what's the point? Would it have made it better if she had paid for all of it? So what if it makes Pontiac look good? They could easily have said "fuck you" to Oprah and sell those cars, just as most companies (and poeple) do everyday-and no one would have known. Just because they get something out of it doesn't mean it's a crappy thing to do or they shouldn't have done it.

How about she just takes her money and gives it to no one and does no good with it? How about she just sits on her hands and doesn't use her influence for any good? How about she doesn't appeal to big companies to give something back to the little people? How many rich people are there in the world that don't do shit for anyone but themselves? Way too many. And way too few like Oprah.

Also, this is different than when she just gives stuff away because this time, everyone who got something needed it.
posted by aacheson at 5:35 PM on September 13, 2004


And no, I never watch Oprah. I just happened to turn this on today cuz I'm home with a sick kid. And this really moved me. And it pisses me off to have you cynical people shit all over it to make you feel better. You just can't win. With attitudes like that, why does anyone do anything good for anyone?

You know, I've spent the day gathering my kid's used baby clothes, toys, and books to give to a battered women's shelter. It makes me feel good. Does that make me some shitty greedy person? Are you going to crap all over that, too?
posted by aacheson at 5:38 PM on September 13, 2004


If they really cared, they would have cured cancer. All they did was give two hundred people a free car.

Fuck you, Pontiac. Selfish bastards.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:38 PM on September 13, 2004


One thing that makes my head hurt-- If Pontiac and/or Oprah pays the taxes on the car... is that then income that taxes have to be paid on? Who pays those taxes? Is it a never-ending cycle?
posted by Shoeburyness at 5:41 PM on September 13, 2004


aacheson, don't sweat it. The people who are shitting over this are just fretting because their feeling of moral superiority (which is just that, a feeling, not a reality) is threatened.
posted by jonmc at 5:42 PM on September 13, 2004


I think the gesture was nice and all, but (from a CNN link):

Winfrey said the audience members were chosen because their friends or family had written about their need for a new car.


It seems a little inappropriate to reward people for asking celebrities for financial assistance. I mean, if part of someonebody’s strategy for getting a new car is to ask a TV star for one, they might benefit more from a visit from a social worker or something.
posted by nixxon at 5:42 PM on September 13, 2004


Oh. So because some corporation got some good PR out of it, it no longer qualifies as "kindness?"

Please tell me I'm missing something in that argument. Either that, or show me what planet you're living on where all actions are completely independent of each other and there are no shades of gray whatsoever.

Would it have been okay if she smelted the iron and built the fucking cars herself? Would it have been acceptable to you if she had found a type of car that you found more esthetically appealing?

You must be hell on whoever buys you Christmas or birthday presents. Those cards and tags saying "Love, Mom" mean those gifts are little more than a promotional device for your own mother, and that makes the gift worthless.

Am I getting that line of logic right? Because this is just "your Aunt getting you a present and signing a card to go along with it," writ large.

Your Aunt is looking for good PR by signing the card, just like Hallmark or whoever is getting good PR by supplying it, right? If she really cared, she'd have donated it anonymously. Ungrateful little hussy.

Tell me how my logic is flawed here. I'm waiting.
posted by chicobangs at 5:43 PM on September 13, 2004


I was totally cynical about this but then I watched it. And I got all choked up. Hated myself for it, yes, but wept girly tears nevertheless. It was just NICE to see people so surprised and happy.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:44 PM on September 13, 2004


MetaFilter: shitty greedy people (except aacheson, whom we all love)
posted by billsaysthis at 5:47 PM on September 13, 2004


metafilter is america
posted by Satapher at 5:56 PM on September 13, 2004


don't freak out aacheson, some people need to strike their cynic pose on a reg basis or they feel they're lacking teh cool, or some such sadness. ignore them. dollars to timbits these same people don't do anything to make their own community a better place to live, so they really have no clue how important it is to encourage, not bad mouth, businesses and the wealthy to donate goods & services.

I've spent the day gathering my kid's used baby clothes, toys, and books to give to a battered women's shelter

good on you... another item that battered women's shelters really need is our old cell phones - sometimes they will accept them directly from you, other times your local phone company will refurbish and distribute them to the shelters.
posted by t r a c y at 5:59 PM on September 13, 2004


aacheson:
Why are you people such jerks about this? WHO CARES if it didn't mean a lot of money to Pontiac and they get a write-off? Who CARES if Oprah gets some publicity out of it? WHY DOES THAT MATTER?

Because some people, you know, have a very hard time believing things for their "face value". I'll make you an example you may find enlightening :

A few years ago, when Albania (dipshit poor country if you don't know) was in a very bad transition phase (read the country was fucked, politically and economically, out of control) a bunch of nice italians tought "what if we send them some help ? ". Very nice idea indeed which I approved and I myself sent some money to help buy them..imagine what...FOOD and other very fucking basic things childrens needed to survive.

Fine so far. So the media went totally on board and promoted an huge fundrising known as "Mission Rainbow" (missione arcobaleno for the google seekers). Containers worth of food and good stuff was sent ; media declared success, the government was all fine with it ...a sucess one would think , and so did I.A drop in the sea, but still a drop.

After less then a year, if my memory serves, a satiric television show runned a story showing images of what happened to the many containers worth of goods.

1. They were shipped
2. Stocked
3. Left without protection
4. LOOTED by every bypasser , and if my memory serves I tought I saw some people with AK-47s taking stuff ..more the one people, a band.

An huge scandal ensued, the government took quite an hit and for a couple days it was all over the TV..and was as quickly forgot as any other bad story, removed. But not removed from my memory. Other scandals involving fundrisings and other acts of fake generosity were discovered ...all of them reported by corageous, batshit insane people who faced huge risks by reporting that stuff on TV.

In a related story, an italian journalist , former Ilaria Alpi..was investingating about some humanitarian mission in some god forgotten country. She was killed because, most probably, she discovered the humanitarian mission was a cover-up for illegal arm trading.
---------
How does this relate with Oprah and Pontiac ?

I'm not accusing them of any wrongdoing, but I still am and will remain very suspicious of every act of grand-generosity..I still trust more myself when I handle some homeless some buck. That doesn't mean in any way Oprah did wrong, I dare repeat for the third time because some people simply don't get it.

From a pragmatic economic point of view, indeed the 276 people are now better off then before : excellent ! Good idea, Oprah ..as I said before.

From a theoretical, but not less pragmatic point of view, the 276 could have receive 28K worth of money in other ways, not necessarily a car ..which is already worth less then 28k.

So, am I dissenting with the great benefactor and the great leader and the great whatever ? No, I'm just offering another analysis. Criticizing doesn't mean badmouthing. If you think that cold blooded analysis is cyniam, consider that some people dressed like your best benefactor may look less cynic, but not be less cold blooded when taking decisions.
posted by elpapacito at 6:00 PM on September 13, 2004


dear diary, i did nothing today, again.
posted by Satapher at 6:05 PM on September 13, 2004 [1 favorite]


to the tune of Devo's Mr. DnA
she's an altruistic poobah
mrs. o-p-r-a(h)

really, is it altruism or Psychological egoism?


honestly, i like chris rock's interpretation: she has to or else the government will find something on her!
posted by raygun21 at 6:07 PM on September 13, 2004


she couldve bought some land, or a new house, or invested in google, she couldve gone to the spas for a year, she couldve had 1 million pizzas delivered to a landfill, she couldve wiped her ass or burned the fucking cash...
posted by Satapher at 6:09 PM on September 13, 2004


the middle class is so cozy, six feet under is just MARVELOUS. i hate you guys so much
posted by Satapher at 6:11 PM on September 13, 2004


If this was a competition or a lottery, you'd see it for what it is: marketing. I can only conclude that the combination of Oprah and poor people suddenly makes it an act of pure unchallengable good with no ulterior motives and damn my black, black heart for ever thinking otherwise. Let's all go buy Pontiacs, to show our appreciation!
posted by reklaw at 6:11 PM on September 13, 2004


Why the fuck would I want to drive a Pontiac? Poor people drive Pontiacs.
posted by Stan Chin at 6:17 PM on September 13, 2004


are you honestly that lame? i hope pontiac sells many cars because of this, there are a dozen other car companies who spent 15 million dollars on some fucking chic marble chess board domino classical music wanky ass fuck commercial -- ulterior motives? this is america jack, not-a-one shits without an ulterior motive.
posted by Satapher at 6:19 PM on September 13, 2004


and thats just an observation, not a glorification
posted by Satapher at 6:21 PM on September 13, 2004


So I was right about you, then. That's a real fuckin' shame.

All kindness, except for the totally anonymous kind, is obviously a pure grab for market share.

This isn't people half a world away mailing boxes of crap to General Delivery, Albania and leaving it there to rot or get looted. This is someone who is very rich and powerful using her platform to make 276 people who need it feel better by delivering something those people need directly into their hands.

Marketing? Damn right it's marketing. How, in your opinion, could she have done something this positive without tripping any of your anything-that-touches-corporate-america-must-be-pure-evil wires?

reklaw, you're not giving her any credit for trying, are you? And seriously. Would it have been different if she'd knitted the cars herself out of free-range wool and left them anonymously on the streets of downtown Chicago? Would that have made it better?

You know what the alternative is, reklaw? No idea what it is in theory, but in practice I'm guessing it's Halliburton.
posted by chicobangs at 6:23 PM on September 13, 2004


reklaws heart became a man before his mind did
posted by Satapher at 6:25 PM on September 13, 2004


OH YEAH? Elvis gave away 200 Cadillacs.




No, I don't have a point. ;)
posted by john at 6:27 PM on September 13, 2004


will rogers never met you, did he, satapher?
posted by jonmc at 6:29 PM on September 13, 2004


chicobangs: Please don't get mad, that doesn't affect me. It mostly affects you.

Marketing? Damn right it's marketing. How, in your opinion, could she have done something this positive without tripping any of your anything-that-touches-corporate-america-must-be-pure-evil wires?

Here you get irrational : were do I say ANYTHING that etc is evil. Where do I say that she did anything "evil" to being with ? I'm praising her. Do you read all of my message or skip to the parts you find the most disgusting or in conflict with what you believe ? Read it twice.

Think again: what I have wrote is that she did good. What I also wrote is that I would have done that differently, in a way that I'm pretty fucking sure could have benefited MORE that people. Then, the fact that I could have done something I'm 99.9% sure it's better, doesn't detract from the good she already did.

She actually exploited marketing and she did well, read my post above the last one

The point is : the people received a good valued at 28000, personally I'd rather have real money then a good that's going to lose value very soon, but they surely can thank Oprah for this good idea

She derouted money from stupid ass billboards to money that is factually good for people. Praise to her for this.

Now if you feel like, please explain me which nerve I touched that made you think I'm against Oprah.
posted by elpapacito at 6:38 PM on September 13, 2004


Just look at the reactions in this thread. If people on MeFi find questioning Oprah's motives distasteful, I imagine Americans in general feel even more strongly that this was an act of pure philanthropy. In marketing terms, that's absolute fucking gold dust.

Now, what kind of viewing figures does Oprah get, I wonder... consider:

cost of cars / number of viewers = cost per person reached

Given the lovely associations created for Pontiac here, the fact that they won't have been paying retail to give away their own cars (duh) and the fact that each additional customer created for Pontiac is worth a substantial amount... and you're looking at a pretty fat profit, I'd say.

If Oprah had given away cars the people chose (from a choice of just a few, even) with her own money, I'd think that was just swell. Doing it this way, though, as a gifts-for-endorsement deal, stinks. Yeah, 276 poor people get cars. But millions watching get cynically manipulated.
posted by reklaw at 6:39 PM on September 13, 2004


Some you guys really make me wonder. Oprah and Pontiac do a wonderful thing for 276 people and all you can do is criticize them? How many cars did you give away today?
posted by caddis at 6:41 PM on September 13, 2004


manipulated? its television. drink a dose of reality, computer chair'd.
posted by Satapher at 6:41 PM on September 13, 2004


Again.

I'm asking you, reklaw: Say you're Oprah. You want to do something good, like, "give a couple three hundred cars away" good, without using your cynical corporate whore connections and without letting any corporation profit from your good deed.

How do you do it?



and Will Rogers is in Satapher, but he's trying to get out!
posted by chicobangs at 6:42 PM on September 13, 2004


If I was Oprah, why the heck would I give three hundred cars away? Give the people the money instead. If they're really poor and needy, they likely have way more important things to spend it on.
posted by reklaw at 6:46 PM on September 13, 2004


Would it have been different if she'd knitted the cars herself out of free-range wool and left them anonymously on the streets of downtown Chicago? Would that have made it better?

Why yes. Yes, it would.

According to the Pontiac web page, they don't have any option for a manual transmission, it's automatic only. I find that somehow disturbing.

Anyway, there's not much to say about this. Like XQUZYPHYR said, this is just the same thing they've been doing on The Price Is Right for years. It's great for the people who got a car out of it, it's great for Oprah, it's probably good for Pontiac. For the rest of us it's just more advertising.
posted by sfenders at 6:47 PM on September 13, 2004


OPRAH IS NOT GOING TO LOSE ANY MONEY FROM THIS, NOR IS PONTIAC. NO ONE IS FUCKING ARGUING THIS POINT, genius.

in fact, they both will make much profit.

the point is, genius, that 276 people now have the oppurtunity to drive to work, commute to a better paying job, take their kids camping, whatthefuckever.

276 people can take this publicity stunt and mold it into the turning point of their life.

Oprah is rich. Oprah was rich. Oprah will be rich. She coudlve burned the money. She couldve invested in Pokia.

You save all your aimless energy for Oprah, when its not about Oprah at all... shes the constant, its the variables that matter.
posted by Satapher at 6:49 PM on September 13, 2004


I personally know Ms. Winfrey and she is a good person.
posted by azul at 6:50 PM on September 13, 2004


It's philanthropic product placement, folks. Which makes it not quite as good as independent philanthropy, but a hell of a lot better than regular old product placement.

Reklaw, if you lived where I grew up (miles from nowhere with no public transportation of any kind) you'd feel that nothing was more crucial to your financial well-being than a reliable vehicle.

And if you did need the cash, you could sell the car, after all, and buy a cheaper used model. Pontiac isn't going to give anyone a bucket o' cash, but if someone can get them to give some free cars to people who really need them, I say hurray for that!
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:52 PM on September 13, 2004


Oh, and it's not like "The Price is Right"--it's more like "Queen for a Day".

Yes, I'm a TV pedant.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:53 PM on September 13, 2004


ELVIS! ELVIS!
posted by john at 6:54 PM on September 13, 2004


i can't help but think it'd be better to give away 700+ $10K new Sunfires, or 1400+ $5k used cars...

Cool that people who needed cars got cars.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:56 PM on September 13, 2004


How funny would it be to give away 276 H2 Hummers.
posted by lightweight at 6:59 PM on September 13, 2004


Reklaw: you got it right, but I dare say your approach is a little simplicistic (no offence intended). Reklaw, what if the money is spent on illegal drugs ?

Think about it. Pontiac has no interest in associating the brand with problems..so they tought about the car, a good idea indeed..as you figured out Oprah did well and we can't really criticize her for doing the good she did, neither I want to.

It just happens that we got a somehow better idea, but some people got it as a criticism to Oprah and went insane on that.
posted by elpapacito at 6:59 PM on September 13, 2004


The reason that people are cynical about this is because the same corporations who are being so magnanimous in their generosity on one hand are stealing our democracy with the other and they're buying their influence with the money they manipulate out of our hands by creating a culture of consumption and materialism. DUH!

For the record, I respect Oprah because she worked her way up from abject poverty and I truly believe she does want to give back what she's earned to others.
posted by PigAlien at 7:00 PM on September 13, 2004


I've spent the day gathering my kid's used baby clothes, toys, and books to give to a battered women's shelter. It makes me feel good. Does that make me some shitty greedy person? Are you going to crap all over that, too?

aacheson, no. in fact, you are far nobler than that television fool. i'd fucking stand in the street and applaud your passing, but i can only sneer at pontiac/oprah's phony, manufactured telemotion (whose only reason for being is to reinforce a paradigm of materialism, greed and subliminal self-promotion).

what you describe yourself doing is going out of your way to make things better for others - doing things you weren't already going to do anyway. you do them sans spotlight. sans self-promotion. sans any attention whatsoever. it costs you on a personal level.

neither oprah (the production company) nor pontiac are altruistic. they are not persons, nothing costs "them" on a personal level. they are carefully choreographing, packaging, and distributing televised autofeelgood. the audience gets to bask in altruist emotion and it costs them nothing. they don't have to move their asses an inch.

now oprah the person may be an angel - i don't know. perhaps she's fucking mother teresa off-camera. if so, good for her. but this circus? it's nothing but one big fat advertisement. i just don't see how you can be so moved. it's just a game show stripped of the pretense of questions, rules, winners and losers, a format that skips the prelims and takes us straight to the part where we're supposed to leap up and down yelping like hyperexcited puppies and our wonderful sponsors shower us with fabulous booty.
posted by quonsar at 7:00 PM on September 13, 2004


i'd fucking stand in the street and applaud your passing

um. clarification: i meant like, give you a parade, not cheer your funeral.
posted by quonsar at 7:02 PM on September 13, 2004


does anyone here NOT think this was an advertisement, cause id really love for you to stop making that "point"

file under : NO SHIT.
posted by Satapher at 7:04 PM on September 13, 2004


reklaw, I'm going to go back to the one-on-one scale for a second:

Would you rather get ten bucks? Or a gift of the same value that someone actually thought about you enough to personalize? The thought, even on a new-car scale, counts for something. These people needed cars. It wasn't like she gave them all yaks or something. She put some thought into the gift. Which makes the end-value of that gift much, much higher.

True, it's no skin off Oprah's ass, or Pontiac's neither. These people are richer than everyone reading this combined. (Except you, Oprah. I can see you there. Email's in my profile, babe.) Would you rather Pontiac bought an ad, and Oprah used the airtime to push another Dr. Phil book or something, and those 276 people keep walking to work and feeling shitty about their lives? Because, you know, that's the other option. Everything else is equal on both sides of that equation, and don't fool yourself into thinking otherwise.

And if you don't want corporations doing things like this, then we're going to have a lot more Enrons and Bechtels and a lot fewer corporations that see the value (PR, marketing, or otherwise) in sharing some of their massive profits with those people who might otherwise never be able to afford one of their products.

I'm not jumping up and down about this, but I'd rather she did it than not. And I agree that Capitalism is a deeply flawed ideology, but as long as we're stuck with it, let's encourage little shit like this.


Incidentally, elpapacito, I think I get your point. It's right and good to ask questions of these actions, but to dismiss this act out of hand simply because some company may stand to gain from them takes away another level of communication between corporate America and the working classes. I'm thinking if everybody concerned wins, including a few poor people at the bottom of this ladder, and nobody loses out, then we should be celebrating and encouraging this action, not dismissing it out of hand as a load of manipulative capitalistic bullshit.
posted by chicobangs at 7:05 PM on September 13, 2004


MetaFilter: trust no one.
posted by bwg at 7:05 PM on September 13, 2004


(Also, Oprah better not be fucking Mother Theresa. Because that's just sick.)
posted by chicobangs at 7:08 PM on September 13, 2004


Reklaw, what have you given away today, this week, this month, this year? When you give away a car, just one car, tehn call back. Until then, put a cork in it.
posted by caddis at 7:10 PM on September 13, 2004


corporations make my life a cozy wet dream

BUT I FUCKIN HATE THE BASTARDS

more kraft cheese, babe?
posted by Satapher at 7:10 PM on September 13, 2004


Also, the cynicism isn't merely about the fact that this is glorified advertising/marketing. This also creates feel-good vibes with the general public, which makes them less likely to question the current corporatocracy. After all, the corporations are so good, aren't they? I mean, look at how they help people!

Never mind that those same corporations are siphoning off as much wealth as possible from the middle-class and poor and widening the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

When people talk about this widening gap, they neglect to mention that this gap is growing because of the influence of corporations and consolidation of market power and manipulation of the legislative process to protect this trend.
posted by PigAlien at 7:15 PM on September 13, 2004


chicobangs: indeed Oprah idea is good and I praise her for redirecting money..lemme reinforce redirecting money to , if not the best for people at least somehow better for people; a possible second best optimum, in economic terms. It's an interesting change, but I'm still siding more with rational analysis of quonsar about the why it's being done. About the how it's being done, Oprah may be on a good train..we'll see.
posted by elpapacito at 7:19 PM on September 13, 2004


Hey, it's a good thing. Most people can't be bothered to give a dime to a pan handler and while she didn't pay any money she used her fame to help out these people. GM deserves some kudos as well. Yeah, it's publicity for them but so what? It's not going to make me go out and buy a GM product and I'm not going to tune into Oprah but good on them.
posted by substrate at 7:19 PM on September 13, 2004


i think she shouldve given away cars not made by corporations.... you know like... ummm..... eh.... hmmmm. jamaican suvs?

you guys dont own cars do you? i only buy free range gas.

god damn hippies.
posted by Satapher at 7:24 PM on September 13, 2004


Good people stick together


posted by lightweight at 7:28 PM on September 13, 2004


Oh, but not everybody wins... surely there must be some sinister consequences to this apparent benificent event. What about all the people who are influenced by this so much that they buy one of those cars even though they'd be better off with a Toyota; all the people who have to pay a fraction of a cent more for their Pontiac to pay for its advertising budget; the neighbours of these people who have to suffer from envy at not having won a car; the people who are just tired of hearing so much about Oprah; and everyone who wasted time posting to this thread? Do our miniscule but widespread losses add up to the value of the benifit that will go to the recipients of automotive bliss, their families, friends, employers, local businesses, passing strangers who are brightened by their smiling faces? Is the collective mind of metafilter up to the summation of this moral calculus? Maybe everyone would like to chip in a few bucks to buy me a new car? Yes, this event raises serious questions. It may be years before it will be fully understood.
posted by sfenders at 7:31 PM on September 13, 2004


PigAlien nails it, pretty much. You give corporations your money, praise them for giving a tiny (from their point of view) amount back to the community, and then (as a population) promptly go out and give them way more than they just spent back, by way of thanks, you know.

It's just another way for the rich to get richer. 276 people gain, but consumers as a whole lose. And they feel great about it! I mean, seriously, it's an absolutely brilliant piece of marketing -- Pontiac looks generous, despite the fact that it's actually the people watching the Oprahmercial who will go out and not only fund this act of generosity themselves, but also generate a huge profit for Pontiac.

Summary: riches -> gifts -> goodwill -> riches * large number

If you think that's a good way for society to work, then keep on cheering.
posted by reklaw at 7:32 PM on September 13, 2004


profit is bad? riches are evil? bill gates = devil spawn or average nerdy joe who got off his fucking ass?

riches are not a bad thing when every single person born in the country has the same oppurtunity to attain them, Oprah case in point.

doctors are such assholes too, you know? they wouldnt even save peoples lives if they didnt make 200k a year, its like, i wanna respect them, but i cant see past their ulterior motives. some poeple just have no heart.

corporations make your life a cozy wet dream and you are an Amoronican.
posted by Satapher at 7:45 PM on September 13, 2004


GM spent more than $4 billion on television, print and billboard advertising in the United States in 1999, three times more than PepsiCo, according to trade publication Advertising Age.
posted by lightweight at 7:46 PM on September 13, 2004


if GM offered you the lead (web print packaging) design position for all their products, youd cream your pants, and call everyone you know announcing your new 6 figure salary, and youd never turn back.

it sucks being a a helpless troll underneath the bridge of possibilities.

you reap what you sow, ace, dont piss on someone elses crops
posted by Satapher at 7:48 PM on September 13, 2004


So reklaw, I think you have established that you dislike corporations. OK, I have an open mind, what is your economic utopia?
posted by caddis at 7:53 PM on September 13, 2004


Okay, so my little message to anyone who finds fault in this. Go f*ck yourself. It was fantastic and selfless for Oprah to do this. If you can't find something positive in an act like this you're clearly a disturbed individual.
posted by jasenlee at 7:56 PM on September 13, 2004


One thing that makes my head hurt-- If Pontiac and/or Oprah pays the taxes on the car... is that then income that taxes have to be paid on? Who pays those taxes? Is it a never-ending cycle?

It's a cash gift, which is not taxable so long as it is under $11,000. (Generally speaking, IANYTA, YMMV, of course.) Any time a sweepstakes or contest advertises "tax free" winnings, the cash gift rule is what that they're relying upon to make that possible.

i can't help but think it'd be better to give away 700+ $10K new Sunfires, or 1400+ $5k used cars...

A Sunfire is a two-door sporty coupe marketed to the young, single demographic for a reason -- they aren't terribly useful if you have kids who are still in any kind of child restraint, more than two kids (who are only going to enjoy riding in that back seat for a while because it's not really suitable for anyone more than maybe 5'4" at least not for long trips), or if you're a very tall or large person yourself.

As for used cars, they can be fine, especially from reputable dealers, and they can be an extremely smart economic move. But even "certified" used cars tend to come with maintenance issues, even if it's just a matter of a shorter period of time between purchase and the need to do routine replacements on things like brakes or ties. It's not much of a prize to give someone a car that's going to start running into those piddly things that can really eat into a tight budget.

All that said, I appreciate that Oprah uses her name and fame to cajole corporate entities into helping people who need something as seemingly simple as a car to really improve their lives. But I would be much happier if she didn't do it in a way that brought her glory and accolades and mentions throughout the media and threads on Metafilter and every other 'net discussion joint. Charity that comes with a hefty helping of self-aggrandizement isn't really charity. There's a reason why the greatest philanthropists in the country, the ones who truly give huge percentages of their income and wealth to aiding other people, do so quietly. Philanthropy has altruistic motives. Oprah and GM don't have altruistic motives, they have economic motives. And that's fine too, so long as we recognize it. Applaud them for the dual effect of doing something nice for these people, but recognize that it wasn't the goal.

In other words, think, file away the information and then act accordingly in the future.
posted by Dreama at 7:56 PM on September 13, 2004


Reklaw, you need a lot more proof than you're offering. Where A = Pontiac giving out cars, and B = people buying from cars from Pontiac, you haven't actually shownt:

- that as a consequence of A, people do B; or
- that people doing B is a negative outcome (aka "consumers as a whole lose")

In other words, what Satapher said.

Oh, and P.S. What if the formulation works like this: Pontiac gives away 250 cars, people hear about it, and their reaction is that they're damned if they're going to plunk down 28,000 clams for something that a bunch of shabby people got for free. Pontiac loses business and has to shut down the whole product line. Would that be a more positive outcome in your book? Or would you simply prefer that those people didn't get the free cars in the first place?
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:58 PM on September 13, 2004


Once again, among some on metafilter, good is not only the enemy of perfect, it's probably not even good.

It's threads like these that make me see who the assholes are, and I keep it mind whenever they spout off, knowing that they are really incapable of perceiving anything clearly that involves their ideological "enemies."

Also, I really hope everyone who sees this as some elaborate plan by Oprah and GM to promote Military-Industrial Complex or feel that an otherwise good act is rendered moot by who did it and how it was done do things, like, get tax deductions for charitable contributions or refuse gifts or acknowledgement for said donations or charitable acts. Because any benefit you receive actually negates any good you do.

And of course, if you can only help so many people, you're better off not helping anyone because you're equally wrong no matter what you do, simply by being in a position to help.
posted by Snyder at 8:03 PM on September 13, 2004


I'm with Reklaw & PigAlien on this one, kids. Charity just makes people overlook how fucked they are. Light a candle and all that jazz, sure, feed the starving guy today--but that isn't enough. When Oprah starts spending her money & influence to explain to people why this system doesn't work, then gives them a car for listening, I'll be impressed. As for now, good for the lucky folks, but don't think it makes this country any different in a meaningful way.

And for those who don't get the anemone curl some people get from this, let me just say your insistence that she's an angel encourages it. I'm unimpressed because I think it does nothing stucturally to fix a broken system. Sure, it was nice, really nice. But overall . . .
posted by dame at 8:07 PM on September 13, 2004


The sheer vitriol in this thread is pretty amazing. Anyone who doesn't love the kind and benevolent corporations is obviously some kind of weirdo, I guess.

Anyway, I've got a few thank-you letters to write for these free shampoo samples. How kind of them to send me free shampoo! How altruistic! etc.
posted by reklaw at 8:12 PM on September 13, 2004


So reklaw, what would you replace these kind, benevolent corporations with?
posted by caddis at 8:13 PM on September 13, 2004


They employ a lot of people. You can complain about the quality of their compensation, but what are these folks to do for $$$ without the corps? Shall we all just go back to being subistence farmers? Perhaps we should just be communist, you know it worked so well in the USSR?
posted by caddis at 8:16 PM on September 13, 2004


"subistence" - oh, I give up. You win reklaw I am too tired to continue.
posted by caddis at 8:20 PM on September 13, 2004


And of course, if you can only help so many people, you're better off not helping anyone

No, that isn't the argument, and if you weren't so wrapped up in your "I'm good because I support charity, you're assholes because you question it" nonsense, you might see that.

Some of us think that by making corporations appear good, you are actually hurting more people than you help. Almost three hundred people got a car that will be reliable and a help for what, eight years? Say some of those people, because they got reliable transport, manage to pull themselves up a class--do you really think that compares to the vast classes of people who are harmed by the numbers of half-aware folks who now think corporations want to help everyone, and therefore turn their heads away from the greater problems.

Just look at the case of autos. If GM really wanted to make it possible for people with lower incomes to afford cars, they wold create hybrids and make them widely available. (Tried to buy a hybrid lately? Six months to wait, at least.) If Oprah wanted to help, she'd push for subsidies for hybrids (which take much less gas, and are, therefore, cheaper to drive), and push for public transportation to be a real priority so all the poor people who didn't make it on her show could get to work too.

And just in case people weren't listening before: YES, IT'S REALLY GREAT FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO GOT CARS. And no, I'm not jealous. I don't want a car. I want a country that takes care of its least fortunate for real.
posted by dame at 8:23 PM on September 13, 2004


Interesting thread.

Isn't the give a man a fish and he eats today but teach a man to fish and he eats forever argument really what some are trying to discuss?

If so, this is not in itself an objection of a single act of charity but simply an attempt to widen the discussion to the role of charity in our current society. Some may well object and do in this thread, but others are merely pointing out that though this is great for some people, the roles of the have and have nots and the interaction between them cannot be blanketed.

When I heard of this I thought that it's great to help out people in need and indeed I believe it is. Also thought of those who have been laid off by GM due to globalization and "corporatocracy" as PigAlien discusses. In a society where you can put "free" in front of words like market and tie it into the concept of a freedom and liberty for people it's prudent to remain cynical. The degree of cyncism may well be unfortunate, but if you cannot discuss the possible negative implications along with the positive than the cynicism run in both camps.
posted by juiceCake at 8:25 PM on September 13, 2004


According to the Pontiac web page, they don't have any option for a manual transmission, it's automatic only. I find that somehow disturbing.

Huh? Most people don't know how to drive manual transmissions.
posted by drezdn at 8:28 PM on September 13, 2004


I personally know Ms. Winfrey and she is a good person.

I have discussed Ms. Winfrey with my neighbors and acquaintances and I can tell you that Ms. Winfrey's reputation is very good.

/evidence geek
posted by PrinceValium at 8:33 PM on September 13, 2004


Huh? Most people don't know how to drive manual transmissions.

I find it disturbing as well (with tongue in cheek, I actually find it amusing) not because most people don't know how to drive manual transmissions (is that true world-wide or only in America?) but because the marketing campaign says built for drivers...

The car is marketed as sporty for example and yet you can't even get a manual transmission? If I can't heel and toe and use the throttle in combination with the gears to enjoy myself when I'm driving the car it is most definitely not built for drivers. Not to mention the huge benefits of engine braking in regard to brake wear, as well as fuel economy. But of course marketing and nonsense trot hand in hand.

Nothing to complain about if you're given the car for free of course!
posted by juiceCake at 8:36 PM on September 13, 2004


The sheer vitriol in this thread is pretty amazing. Anyone who doesn't love the kind and benevolent corporations is obviously some kind of weirdo, I guess.

Try reading some of the arguments instead of caricaturing them unread according to your stereotypes.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:39 PM on September 13, 2004


I think it's nice.
posted by cinderful at 8:39 PM on September 13, 2004


"Most peopleAmericans don't know how to drive manual transmissions."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:41 PM on September 13, 2004


It's just for decoration, man, we do it for decoration. That's it, and that's all.
posted by dhoyt at 8:45 PM on September 13, 2004


My sister went to a taping of the Ricki Lake Show, and all I got was this crappy t-shirt...
posted by naxosaxur at 8:53 PM on September 13, 2004


TAGLINE!

MetaFilter: Fucking Mother Theresa.
posted by wendell at 8:57 PM on September 13, 2004


There are many people in the US who don't know how to drive a manual transmission.

An automatic transmission is also easier to convert for someone with a significant physical disability.

And, finally, it's cheaper for the (US) automaker than the manual transmission.

Let's review the bidding here: Oprah gets GM to do a promotion that actually benefits some people in need. Net benefit to those people = 1 car. Net benefit to GM = good publicity. Net benefit to Oprah = good TV. Net benefit to society = nil.

But so what? Advertising and corporate promotion isn't supposed to benefit society as a whole. It's nice that, for a change, it benefitted some needy people as well as the usual suspects.

The people who are like "Oprah should be educating people about the need for a workers' revolution" are just missing the point. Oprah isn't going to go on network TV and educate people about the need for a workers' revolution (even if she came to believe in same). That's not the function of network TV, or network TV celebrities.

I might as well insist that my refrigerator provide me with oral sex in addition to frosty cold beverages.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:03 PM on September 13, 2004


Y'all are just jealous.
posted by Fofer at 9:29 PM on September 13, 2004


This was a publicity stunt to garner ratings.

It just had a side effect of helping 276 people with transportation problems.
posted by Trik at 9:43 PM on September 13, 2004


"And of course, if you can only help so many people, you're better off not helping anyone"
No, that isn't the argument, and if you weren't so wrapped up in your "I'm good because I support charity, you're assholes because you question it" nonsense, you might see that.


No one here (unless I'm missing something) is saying anything close to that. There's tons of questioning of this action going on, and that's vital. My only issue was that some people here were turning this one semi-planned, semi-random action into a referendum on the Entire Capitalist System. It's not a good case study, and no, I don't have a better example, because it's late and I'm going to bed shortly.


And just in case people weren't listening before: YES, IT'S REALLY GREAT FOR THOSE PEOPLE WHO GOT CARS. And no, I'm not jealous. I don't want a car. I want a country that takes care of its least fortunate for real.

Me too, please god someday, but -- do you know how far we are from that reality, especially after three years of Bush, dame? A million miles, and it's fading fast. I'm aware of how Oprah's giveaway is a band-aid on a spurting flesh wound of society, really I am, but aside from your idea about Oprah maybe pushing for more affordable high-mileage cars and more accessible cheaper fuels (which is a great idea, and she would do good to start in with any time now), I don't see a lot of solutions offered in this thread that don't involve immediate and extreme dismantling of the basic economic system that the world is currently hard-wired into.


(And a refrigerator that gives hummers would be way, way more popular than a talk show host that gives Hummers.)

* Band-Aid(tm) is a trademark of the Johnson & Johnson Corporation.

posted by chicobangs at 9:44 PM on September 13, 2004


immediate and extreme dismantling of the basic economic system

nonsense. simply illuminating another way in which it tends to become invisible by its very pervasivity. after all, in a world where people sit in front of electronic boxes and suckle autogenerated emotive experiences, people just need to be reminded that that's what they are doing, now and then.
posted by quonsar at 9:53 PM on September 13, 2004


It certainly sounds like buying the house for that family was quite a boon to them. The cars are no doubt very nice. I can tell you there have been some times in my life when such gifts would have come in mighty handy. But in response to several comments in this thread, and no slur on Oprah whatsoever, she did not give her money for this project. Every dime spent came out of the production budget of either her show or her marketing partners for the show. This should in no way minimize the generosity exhibited but if you think she dug into her pockets to pay out these prizes you are hopelessly naive.
posted by filchyboy at 9:55 PM on September 13, 2004


IANYTA, either, but I'm pretty sure that GM gets to deduct either:

Fair market value, if the gifts are considered "charitable"
I doubt that this would fly, even though the recipients were chosen by need or,

The cost to produce the vehicle, if the gifts are expensed as marketing expenses.

As far as I know, the whole gift tax angle is moot. These aren't gifts in the sense of a gift given by an individual or estate. Rather than being "gifts", I think the retail value (street price, maybe) is reportable as "other income" by the recipient. Furthermore, the money that GM gives the recipients to cover the taxes is also taxable, so there is a bit of feedback there (in which GM must give an additional gift to cover the taxes on the first gift to cover the taxes), but it ought to be pretty negligible. If these recipients are indeed truly poor (with kids, natch), they probably earn less than their exclusion and deductions. In some cases, GM will only have to pay taxes at 10% (to square the recipient with the Feds), rather than the high-twenties rate applicable to much of the middle-class.

I might be wrong, though. (I ain't passed the bar, but I know a little bit)
posted by Kwantsar at 10:11 PM on September 13, 2004


Hmm. Some of you are remarkably naive. Never mind anything else, there's now another 700 petrol-guzzling metal death traps on the USAs roads. Oprah should do a show reminding people how great buses are, and take a stake in a public transport company. Then I'd be impressed.
posted by ascullion at 10:34 PM on September 13, 2004


Whoops, meant 300 petrol guzzling....
posted by ascullion at 10:35 PM on September 13, 2004


Trik, your head can be half empty or half full, doesnt make much of a difference
posted by Satapher at 11:19 PM on September 13, 2004


Satapher:

That was so deep

/not

Oprah sensed her grip on the easily swayed was slipping so she set up a grandiose ("2:Characterized by feigned or affected grandeur; pompous.") display to re-enthral the mindless.
posted by Trik at 11:34 PM on September 13, 2004


it's just a game show stripped of the pretense of questions, rules, winners and losers, a format that skips the prelims and takes us straight to the part where we're supposed to leap up and down yelping like hyperexcited puppies and our wonderful sponsors shower us with fabulous booty.

Nicely said, q. And, although I have no pony in this particular race, I'd say not unlike the way in which the current election campaign is being conducted. And not coincidentally, at that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:35 PM on September 13, 2004


Damn, this is some harsh shit. First off, Oprah does not need any more publicity. She is so far ahead in the daytime t.v. race, she basically has a license to print money as long as she chooses. I believe she has already said she's going to stop in 6 years.

Second, she has often been an adversary of corporate America. As far as I know she is the only t.v. personality to actually be sued by an entire industry for advising people to do something healthy for themselves like not eating so much beef. Calling this a marketing ploy is just ignorant. So what if Pontiac looks good by doing this. What happened here is that 7 million dollars worth of something was taken out of the hands of automotive or adverstising corporations, and given to poor people. This is a net benefit to society, a redistribution of wealth in a good way that would not have happened if not for Oprah.

Last, quonsar, et al, how this obscures the inequities in American society is beyond me. 276 people got lucky. It was no one I know and my views on life have not changed. Speculating on how easily the rest of the unwashed masses will be fooled is a bit arrogant. Oprah's act was as real as she could make such a gesture given the medium she operates in. If you find it too phony and manufactured, you should rail at television, not Oprah.
posted by MetalDog at 2:52 AM on September 14, 2004


I think of Oprah as a televangelist for feel-good corporate promotion, but I don't have a problem with any of her giveaways, etc. I also think that giving away 276 vehicles to folks in need is admirable. Who cares if it is a promotion, don't rant at the promoters, rant at the folks who are too sheeplike to make an informed decision on their own and instead listen to what the TV prophets tell them their taste should be like and then go out and buy Oprah's Book of the Month™®© because she says so.
posted by sciurus at 3:24 AM on September 14, 2004


Calling this a marketing ploy is just ignorant.

Well, look at all the ignorant people:
GM officials said they knew they needed to do something special to break through the advertising clutter and make potential customers aware of its new nameplate.

"We couldn't think of anybody bigger than Oprah," said Mary Kubitskey, advertising manager for Pontiac. "There's a lot of clutter out there right now. We had to find a way to break though."

The promotion -- which may make Pontiac dealers overnight fans of Winfrey -- highlights a marketing era that morphs advertising, public relations, event marketing and product placement into one confusing jumble of information for consumers. That is especially true as many consumers rely on digital recorders to avoid commercials. Winfrey and GM's public relations staff were ready on the phone Monday, doing interviews about the planned news event.

Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research Inc. in Bandon, Ore., said GM's move was so brilliant that he was struck that other automakers hadn't thought of it before.

"It's a marketing stunt, but it was a good one," he said. "It's something nobody has really done before."
posted by pmurray63 at 5:46 AM on September 14, 2004


pmurray: yah it's pure marketing (and thanks for finding the article) but better marketing imho.

Much better then other forms that don't give people exactly anything but thin hot air making and make them pay for that, too.

Now some marketer out there is probably thinking "yeah nice idea, but why should I do the same ? The novelity value, the shock value of the idea has been spent by Oprah" , some other is thinking that it's not a good idea to make customers accustomed to free giveaways and the return of this idea is, as for any other idea, going to diminsh over long term.

Point is they don't see the viable alternative of channeling some money away from traditional advertisement (tv,radio,etc) into tangible benefits for the consumer ; those 276 who now get the car are not going to forget it for the rest of their life and are going to sweet talk Pontiac for a long time, plus are more likely to buy Pontiac again.

Unlike traditional advertisement, one can't blame any company for giving away -good stuff- and not crap to promote their product..that's good for their image. Yeah 276 cars is a drop , but still a drop better then hot air.

On a tangent: I agree with quonsar on the basic reasoning behind the initiative and I also despide consumistic attitude promoted by some, if not 90% of companies..but as we see in this very thread, knowing that and telling that to people may cause tons of knee jerk reactions (the thread is full of)
and produce exactly the opposite effect : people siding with corporations for all the wrong motives.
posted by elpapacito at 6:36 AM on September 14, 2004


Hey, does anyone here live without the benefit of a corporation? Hello? Anyone? Someone out there must be typing in this thread on a computer purchased at an Arts & Crafts market. And I know the electricity powering said computer is being generated from the stationary bike you built to generate it. Of course, that cold water you were drinking must have come from your personal spring...and I'm certain you didn't refrigerate it.

Yes, corporations look out for themselves first. Yes, corporations manipulate the laws to enable growth. And yes, corporations exist to make money. But who works in corporations? Demons? Or people like you and me? And why do corporations exist? Maybe because people need them?

I'm all for a return to agrigarian culture (I grow veggies in my garden), but I think people forget that corporations are owned and run by the middle-class. Heck, in the corporation I am sitting in now, I'd say the lower-class inhabits a great deal of the positions here. So we are all evil? No one wants us? Break it down again and start over?

If a corporation does something bad, fight THAT. But that yummy banana you had for breakfast most likely was harvested, shipped, and refrigerated all thanks to corporations. nice to have a banana year round isnt it? How many of you drink orange juice but do not live in a state where they grow? To say they are all bad is naive and ignorant. Try to work on that perspective problem guys.
posted by Dantien at 7:10 AM on September 14, 2004


Sidhedevil has some serious valid point.

One might hope that perhaps this act by Oprah could help illustrate how for folks in some places, an automobile is NOT a "luxury"--Much as I hate that ugly fact (I do not like cars. I do not like needing a car).

I hope a good portion of that audience needed a car in order to have a job.

I wish the cars had been Toyota Prius, instead of Pontiac. Oh well, can't have everything.
posted by Goofyy at 7:18 AM on September 14, 2004


Best of the web . . .
posted by Outlawyr at 7:34 AM on September 14, 2004


Heck, in the corporation I am sitting in now...

Hey! Dantien! Stop reading Mefi and get back to work!
- a concerned stockholder

/me *puts feet on desk*
/me *thumbs roll of benjamins*
posted by Fezboy! at 7:58 AM on September 14, 2004


I can't think of a more grotesque, embarassing representation of the United States than this stunt.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:02 AM on September 14, 2004


Sidhedevil: Your refrigerator doesn't occaisionally give you a few laps while distracting you from the appliance-led no-head conspiracy. To me, that's what charity is--it stuffs rags into gaps left by an unequal system. You don't have to agree, but let's try not to mischaracterize, 'kay? Because I've seen evidence in other comments that you aren't dumb.

Like lets take this: The people who are like "Oprah should be educating people about the need for a workers' revolution".

Nobody really said that. In fact, critiques of corporations have changed since 1960. I know you remember back when they rode women as horses, but lets catch up. Some people are against coprorate power without being for revolution at all.

But you know what really brings me back? The whole "this is what x is for, so what do you expect" attitude. If TV show hosts are not capable of helping make a change, then nearly everything Oprah does is feel-good nonsense and we should ignore and never praise her. If they are, then we have the right to critique them when they pretend to help but don't do so in a lasting way.

Chicobangs: I guess I would say, I am suspicious of the Band-Aid because when someone comes along to point out the flesh wound, the assholes who helped create it and keep making it worse can say, "But we tried to stanch the blood!"

Dantien: The choice isn't corporations or agrarianism. In fact, modified corporations may in the end be the best way to organize work. But don't you think it would be better if within a corporation, the highest paid couldn't make less than ten times more than the lowest paid? Don't you think that would help all the people who staff these corps? As for the middle-class ownership, the people who own the six companies that bring you your media are hardly middle class, like those who own the big companies that most Americans work for.

But really, saying "That's just the way it is" is the best way to guarantee change never comes. And that makes me a lot sadder than 300 people not having cars.
posted by dame at 8:17 AM on September 14, 2004


And, finally, it's cheaper for the (US) automaker than the manual transmission.
Manual trasmission is the cheaper option than an automatic one.
posted by thomcatspike at 8:26 AM on September 14, 2004


I'm Oprah Winfrey and I approve of this advertisement.
posted by dash_slot- at 9:09 AM on September 14, 2004


Well, Dame, don't think of me as leaning that far over in that direction. I'm at a constant struggle within over my working for what probably is the biggest corporation in the world, and my ideals. And yes, the fact that our CEO makes so much more money than I do is disquieting.

I guess what I wanted to communicate was this thread's intense dislike for ALL corporations and their "tactics". No one points to big companies donating money to charity, or that my company let me stand in the central area and raise money for MS today. It's all blame. Just frustrating to me when I see our employees working so hard to better our community.
posted by Dantien at 10:44 AM on September 14, 2004


Just so you know, as a poor person (references available) I would even kiss the feet of George W Bush if he bought me a car*. You can hate Oprah and Pontiac all you like but she has made some peoples lives better even marginally then good. As to whether her show gets more viewers or Pontiac sells more cars you forgot to ask the four questions - Yeah? And? So? What?

Is it illegal to use acts of kindness as advertising? I'd rather we ban advertising that does nobody any favours than piss on 276 people who can now enjoy a slightly better life thanks to altruism/evil financial plotting.





*Of course then I'd run the fucker straight down but...
posted by longbaugh at 11:10 AM on September 14, 2004


Fair enough, Dantien.
posted by dame at 11:11 AM on September 14, 2004


If one of the recipients of these cars crashes and kills someone with their pepsi blue autos will we hold Oprah responsible?
posted by DBAPaul at 11:32 AM on September 14, 2004


i love the way this thread slipped into the auto vs. manual thing. and just an aside, i love my tiptronic (all the best of both worlds, especially in traffic).

How many cars did you give away today?

Reklaw, what have you given away today, this week, this month, this year? When you give away a car, just one car, tehn call back. Until then, put a cork in it.

Probably as many as you. Or are you teh Oprah??

Most people can't be bothered to give a dime to a pan handler
Because that dime goes to booze or crack. I really doubt they need that extra quarter for that plane ticket to Paris or Rome or wherever. To be honest, most pan handlers either need a good swift kick in the ass (gutter punks who probably drive mommy's beemer) or swift psychiatric help (schizophrenics, et al). Really people, giving away a shitload of *NEW* cars does not mean that these people will finally be able to afford rent or get better jobs. C'mon, yeah it's nice but yeah it's a stunt as well.

The duality of man is a bitch, ain't it?
posted by raygun21 at 11:40 AM on September 14, 2004


Oprah convinced my mom to buy an iPod. And my mom's happier for it.
posted by adampsyche at 11:42 AM on September 14, 2004


trick, im sharp as a marble baby
posted by Satapher at 12:16 PM on September 14, 2004


raygun21, I'm glad you've appointed yourself spokesperson of all the poor people, especially all those who truly enjoy being poor, who chose to be hooked on crack or whatever and have gleefully left their bootstraps on the floor of mommy's beemer so they could live in crisis shelters and cardboard boxes.

Your arguments are so far out of touch with reality it's almost charming.
posted by chicobangs at 12:57 PM on September 14, 2004


Really people, giving away a shitload of *NEW* cars does not mean that these people will finally be able to afford rent or get better jobs. C'mon, yeah it's nice but yeah it's a stunt as well.
Realizing good transportation saves you time from point a to b. With the saved time being used elsewhere in one's life. Like job hunting which would make it profitable. I went a year w/o a car and missed many job opportunities because there was a lack of public transportation to get there.
posted by thomcatspike at 1:10 PM on September 14, 2004


"Well, look at all the ignorant people:"

Who are you railing against, Oprah, for manipulating Pontiac into using their advertising dollars this way, or Pontiac? I stand by my previous statement, Oprah doesn't need more publicity. This stunt could not conceivably boost her earnings this year more than a miniscule percentage. How is it marketing for her? In my view, spending her time, energy and money in this manner was generous of her. Praiseworthy even. And if Pontiac benefits from the publicity, fine, I think it's safe to say this is one time the big nasty corporation got used themselves, as much as they used the little people.
posted by MetalDog at 1:12 PM on September 14, 2004


And the comment that charity is like stuffing rags into gaps from an unequal system is incredible. So what you are saying is if you can't fix it all at once, don't even bother trying.
posted by MetalDog at 1:23 PM on September 14, 2004


In a world where people sit in front of electronic boxes...

Not counting computer monitors, of course.
posted by Cyrano at 1:32 PM on September 14, 2004


Oprah causes small, unmarked bills to rain from the sky!

Metafilter: "Great. Now people have to bend over and pick all this shit up. Why couldn't she just direct deposit the money into our checking accounts anyway? Fucking bitch."
posted by reidfleming at 2:37 PM on September 14, 2004


Come on! It's not like she gave cars to the CEOs of the 276 largest companies in the Fortune 500 (and if you don't think those people get handouts and goodies out the wazoo, you are wrong.) She gave them to 276 people who needed them. Like someone said above, in many places a car is a necessity, not just a luxury. Where I live in the suburbs, public transit is all but nonexistent. You need a car in order to get to most places, not to mention a job. I think it was a wonderful thing to do. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 2:37 PM on September 14, 2004


Again, people who are expecting meaningful critiques of economic injustice from television talk-show hosts and/or huge automobile conglomerates are living in some kind of alternate reality, as far as I can see.

Pointing out that it's nice that, for a change, some people who are in need have had their lives made easier to at least some extent as a byproduct of an advertising promotion doesn't equate to mindlessly accepting the Gospel According To Our Corporate Overlords.

And, dame, you continue to astonish me. Thanks for the vitriolic and childish personal attack! Nice to see that you're holding a grudge against a complete stranger from months ago. Now that's dedication.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:51 PM on September 14, 2004


Really people, giving away a shitload of *NEW* cars does not mean that these people will finally be able to afford rent or get better jobs.

youre right, everyone has to have their own initiative, she cant make someone try.
posted by Satapher at 3:48 PM on September 14, 2004


And why do corporations exist? Maybe because people need them?

Bullshit. Corporations exist because of a tax dodge the English invented long ago to allow businesses to be treated as people.

[/tangent]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:50 PM on September 14, 2004


Sure, stavros, and five-legged polka-dotted dogs with four-foot rainbow-striped penises exist because there's no law against them.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:03 PM on September 14, 2004


There were corporations before there were taxes in the modern sense, Stavros. The goal of the English and Dutch and various other governments in creating corporations in the 17th century was primarily to encourage group investments with limited personal liability for significant endeavors (exploiting colonies, building hospitals, etc.). The tax angle only became a factor later on.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:29 PM on September 14, 2004


Evil, evil Oprah, because of her, at least one woman will be able to attend the University of Utah this year after she donated $50,000 to the Lori Hacking Memorial Scholarship. What a bitch, she could have afforded to send every girl in the United States to college! Fifty grand is a day at the spa for her!

Exeunt, eyes rolling.
posted by headspace at 5:56 PM on September 14, 2004


raygun21, I'm glad you've appointed yourself spokesperson of all the poor people, especially all those who truly enjoy being poor...
Sorry dude, I just call 'em like I see 'em. I like how you misconstrued that into the spokesman thing though, obviously debate club material.

Oh wait, I forgot. If I don't agree I suck. Yeah.


the middle class is so cozy, six feet under is just MARVELOUS. i hate you guys so much

write a poem about it.


youre right, everyone has to have their own initiative, she cant make someone try.
Can't tell if it's sarcasm or not. Didn't we all agree on a tag for this or something?

As for the time-saved option of having a car, no arguement there. I for one went over 2 years (in L.A. mind you) with no car. Man that sucked having to get up early to take the two different buses to get to work.

But does gettting to work any easier make your life that much better? Does it save you money on your medical bills? Does it make food cheaper? Can it watch your kids after school so that they grow up with a sense of family?

At least Oprah made us all feel better about having computers and plenty of idle/leisure time. Screw it, let's get a MeFi Habitat For Humanity team going. Or are you guys gonna get stuck in traffic?
posted by raygun21 at 6:56 PM on September 14, 2004


my poem, dedicated to raygun21:

life is a piece of shit when youre a piece of shit
posted by Satapher at 8:39 PM on September 14, 2004


or, nothing can make your life better but you, not money or cars or respect or fame or art, every moment is drenched in possibility, anything that happens to you can be turned into lemonade

see also: the little train that could
posted by Satapher at 8:42 PM on September 14, 2004


or, what made Bill Gates different than the other hordes of young nerdy nobodies leading up to 1975? how many of them had great ideas, pipe dreams, and how many of them did something about it?

if the only job you can find is selling vaccuum cleaners door to door, you can either cry about it until you die, or you can tighten your belt and be the best damn door to door vaccuum cleaner salesman the world has ever known...

the former is likely to be bitter, the later is likely to either a) discover an innovation either in the process of making the sale or b) discover an innovation for the vaccuum itself after hearing the complaints and praises from his valued customers or c) simply catch the eye of his boss and soon be managing his own street team of door to door vacuum cleaner salesmen, and so on

nobody owes anybody shit, your life is your own, it sucks 50% of the time and its great 50% of the time, tend your own motherfucking garden.
posted by Satapher at 8:56 PM on September 14, 2004


corporations are a reality, democracy is a reality, working 40 hours a week is a reality... they are here and they are real and they are probably not going anywhere in our lifetime

you can spend your life wishing them away, disdainfully or with an a truely compassionate ache in your heart, but when you wake up, they are still gonna be here

you can do something or you can bitch, and either way youll still be buried and forgotten, its your choice how often you smile while you can still breathe
posted by Satapher at 9:02 PM on September 14, 2004


when you find Utopia be sure to let us know
posted by Satapher at 9:08 PM on September 14, 2004


Update!

There is no such thing as a free lunch! Recipients of these free cars are now trying to figure out how to pay the over $7,000 taxes link link on their new cars.

Some winners of these unexpected burdens are delaying taking receipt of the cars while they determine how to finance the bill (cars must be picked up between Oct. 1, 2004, and Feb. 28, 2005). Sure a new auto for $7,000 is a bargain, but giving a family in need an additional, unplanned, financial obligation seems like a bad idea to me.
"The Internal Revenue Service requires game shows -- and every other large gift giver and casino -- to report winners to the federal government. It is then the responsibility of the winner to fess up on their tax forms."
posted by DBAPaul at 10:23 AM on September 22, 2004


Maybe Harpo (Oprah's company) can pony up the additional taxes..or Pontiac can with a donation..of course they'll have to pay taxes on donation too, but it can be worked out.

If they really so wish.
posted by elpapacito at 7:35 PM on September 22, 2004


Harpo better pay the taxes. It's less than a hour's (maybe a minute's) salary for Oprah, and way less than the cost of one ad page in her magazine.
posted by amberglow at 7:55 PM on September 22, 2004


If someone else pays your taxes is their payment considered 'income' to you, and if so, wouldn't you need to pay taxes on that 'income'?
posted by page404 at 8:01 PM on September 22, 2004


isn't it covered under gift laws? If i give you a car, and i pay the taxes due too, aren't you then not liable for anything else? It's not like salary or income. I think the lottery works the same way--if you win, you get the money, and have to pay taxes on it, but it's not taxed like a salary.
posted by amberglow at 8:05 PM on September 22, 2004


I'd hope so, amberglow, but I wonder how this will play out.
posted by page404 at 3:32 AM on September 23, 2004


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