Well that’s quite the headline. Let’s start with some history.
In the 2013 Guinness Book of World Records, the British Broadcasting Corporation’s TV program “Top Gear” claimed the title of the most watched factual show in the world. According to CNN, it was watched by an estimated 350 million viewers dispersed among 214 countries and territories. The show, presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, was focused on cars; road tests, car stunts, challenges, and epic road trips. They brought the exotic and unobtainable into the living rooms of the world, and often the humorous and undesirable as well. Top Gear was likely the most valuable export of the BBC, driving an estimated £150 million in revenue to BBC Worldwide.
And I basically grew up watching Top Gear; I knew the top speed of an Aston Martin DB9 before I had even touched a steering wheel. When faced with the opportunity to study abroad, I knew my 14-year-old self would kill me if I didn’t go to the UK, and thus spent the best 3 months of my life in London.
In the midst of the 22nd series of the show, which never shied away from controversy, found itself in more trouble. After a long day of filming, Clarkson was unable to find a hot meal, and just as any reasonable and calm person might react, he punched a producer. I personally believe the term ‘fracas’ was dug up from relative obscurity, exclusively for the use of describing the incident. After little delay, he was fired, and his co-presenters and executive producer voluntarily left the show.
Now, Clarkson, Hammond, and May, have a new headline grabbing production; “The Grand Tour” is available only on Amazon Prime streaming and premiering later this month. BBC’s Top Gear, which attempted to replace the iconic trio with a radio DJ/Ferrari collector and Matt LeBlanc, is struggling with ratings.
Aside from “The Grand Tour,” the trio has invested in a social media concept due for launch sometime in the next few weeks. It is called DriveTribe, and I am just as excited for this as I am for the upcoming Amazon show.
DriveTribe was born out of an app from the UK, 6Tribes, which determined what users’ interests were and suggested ‘tribes’ for them to join and thus participate in focused communities. DriveTribe acquired the software from 6Tribes, and is tailoring the focus (as is to be expected) around cars. On DriveTribe, users can join tribes based on their driving interests, be they motorsport, classics, muscle cars, or as a promotional video highlights, maybe even car poetry.
While this might appear to be a small target market, it actually is quite expansive and attractive. On Facebook, cars are the #2 most liked category, after movies and entertainment, and spending on automotive advertising is the largest in the industry, according to TechCrunch. So, Clarkson, Hammond, and May, are hoping to capitalize on a large market whose needs they feel are not currently met. Likely, companies will want to get involved, with the ability for tribe-specific native advertising and sponsored content to target more selectively than is presently possible.
But there is another tremendous upside to this platform; user generated content. DriveTribe is currently in search of everyday individuals to lead their own tribes, and produce their own content. Of course, the presenters will each lead their own tribes based off of their selected interests, with the benefit of their experience, expertise, and expansive resources. But at the same time, a relative nobody could also lead a tribe, writing on his or her particular passion in motoring, and find their voice instantly elevated by the support of the famous trio. Amateur producers, writers, and bloggers will benefit from the notoriety of Clarkson, Hammond, and May. I predict this platform could launch a few careers and lead to the creation of new motoring shows and such.
This is where DriveTribe separates itself from the variety of existing social media platforms; the power of its driving forces. On Facebook or various forums, people can interact and discuss their interests anonymously. On Twitter, they can shout at their favorite celebrities with very limited success. And on Pintrest they can pin things their interested in, or something? I really couldn’t be bothered to find out.
None of these are really suited for making influencers out of users. Only a random small handful will ever become viral, or interact with celebrities, or become a leader among users. But on DriveTribe, all those selected have received the approval of three celebrities and forces in the automotive industry, and are recommended for new users to follow. Top Gear has inspired countless people like me to try their hand at writing about or filming cars in the style they pioneered, and now the minds behind the TV success can return some of the support audiences have given them for so many years. It will be an amazing opportunity for many.
Considering the rise of self-driving cars, a platform like DriveTribe is vital for those who enjoy driving. While the advancement of autonomous vehicles has been incredible, they will one day present an issue for car enthusiasts. In order for self-driving cars to be most efficient, it is likely that laws will prohibit humans from driving, at least on certain roads. When people can no longer drive a personal vehicle, what will be the point of performance, or handling, or speed? The success of a platform such a DriveTribe will give power to the drivers of the world, and hopefully lead to a better solution.
Thinking about myself, I would love to be a tribe leader. In high school I produced a small version of Top Gear for my school TV station, footage of which is definitely lost to the depths of time, but always dreamed of creating bigger challenges in their style. Last Spring, I found myself behind the wheel of my own car, an economical but spirited Mazda 3, on the starting grid of an empty Formula 1 track. While the details of the experience cannot be described in detail for plausible deniability, what transpired was a dream come true, diving into corners I thought I only would ever see on TV or in a video game. I want to find, and subsequently talk about, similar adventures that anyone can go on; to be a leader for those seeking a low budget motoring thrill in the US. A weekend warrior of sorts.
So if it isn’t too late, I think I will apply to be a tribe leader, and be a part of what will become a transformative community.