PHD Media Worldwide > News > PHD at Web Summit | How The Grand Tour was born: Mike Cooper in conversation with Andy Wilman
November 12 2018

PHD at Web Summit | How The Grand Tour was born: Mike Cooper in conversation with Andy Wilman


Watch the full session with Mike Cooper and Andy Wilman at Web Summit above.

When Amazon comes into a new space, they go full-tilt with a lot of ambition (and money).

“We never set out to make a big global show,” said Andy Wilman, Executive Producer of The Grand Tour, the motoring series created with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May following their departure from the BBC’s Top Gear. “We just set out to make a better show than the one that existed.”

With a company like Amazon behind you, it would be difficult to not make a global show, particularly with their push on production. The commerce conglomerate was set on using the highest quality technology available, and while that comes at a big cost, it ultimately led to a big reward for both sides. The first episode of The Grand Tour was the most watched premiere episode in Amazon’s history (and the most illegally downloaded premiere of all time).

Technology championing aside, Wilman and all involved with the show are primarily left to their own devices. Amazon is aware that the format of the show is one that consumers are not only used to but actively seek out, thanks to the decade-long international success of Top Gear.

Wilman, however, is a little more humble on the matter.

“I like to think of it as a band making albums,” he said. “We have a sound, but each new show is like a new album. There’ll be hit songs, decent songs, experimental ones that don’t work. You’ll have hits and misses.”

Mike Cooper, CEO of PHD Worldwide, which is the global media agency for the Volkswagen Group, approached the subject with a keen eye for the advertising side of the automotive industry. While there’s a healthy demand for automotive content, one of the biggest challenges for brands continues to be how they can engage with younger audiences.

Wilman pointed out the conservative nature of mainstream advertising in the industry — traditionally it’s a beautiful photograph, beautiful setting, strapline.

“With digital, you should go crazy,” Wilman said. “When I see car manufacturers make a slightly smaller version of what they do with mainstream on digital, it’s bollocks.

“Carpool Karaoke is the right thing to do, as an example,” he added, referring to PHD’s campaign for Porsche. “Because you might as well have some fun with the brand.”

Wilman also suggested that the primary question on the minds of young consumers is shifting fundamentally: in the near future, the question won’t be ‘Which car do you buy?’ but ‘Do you want a car?’ or ‘Are you going to have a car?’

A lot of young consumers now have options that weren’t available even a decade ago. Whereas cars used to give owners freedom, that ownership is no longer necessary as the freedom can be obtained in other ways — Uber being just one example. It’s essential for automotive brands to understand how consumers think when it comes to cars now, and to find new business models that help a new generation of people adapt to the automotive space.

“[Car manufacturers] should be going, ‘Why don’t you buy a quarter of a car?'” Wilman continued, stressing the option of car share. “That’s got to explode.”

That innovative line of thinking is part of how The Grand Tour has grown into two more entities: The Grand Tour Game, launching early next year with the promise of a seamless transition from the show’s episodes to connected gameplay, and DriveTribe, the online community platform where car fans create their own content which The Grand Tour team then curates and amplifies.

DriveTribe is of particular interest to brands. The data flow between the fans within the community and manufacturers is beneficial to both sides. Manufacturers come to the community’s ‘tribes’, as they’re called, for insight on what they’re thinking. The manufacturers then share their own thoughts and ideas with the tribes to get feedback from them.

“And if we make a film for Audi,” Wilman explained, “we can cut that into 30 different ways to be released and used [on DriveTribe]. You know that a car magazine, sadly, as a print thing, is dying away. So there’s got to be other ways of getting the information out there.”

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