Last night’s Bill Weir interview with James Cameron on Nightline wasn’t just the first on-camera look at the filmmaker’s 100-acre off-the-grid oceanfront compound north of Santa Barbara. It was also a fantastic commercial for the Chevy Volt, albeit engineered from a much broader initial segment blueprint.
“ABC News approached us a couple of months ago with the idea that they wanted to do a story on electric vehicles,” explains Rob Peterson, a spokesperson for Chevrolet Volt, on the phone with FishbowlLA from Detroit. “They asked us if there was a high-profile Volt owner we could recommend.”
“Mr. Cameron has been an advocate of plug-in hybrid vehicles for many years,” he continues. “We knew that he could be the right person for the story. We had a contact in California who could reach out to him and find out it was alright to put ABC News in touch. From that point forward, it was between Nightline and Cameron.”
Asked how he might rank the extensive footage of Cameron and Weir tooling around the California hills in a Volt on the brand’s PR hit list, Peterson admits it’s probably very near the top. Right up there with time in 2008 when Charlie Rose and 60 Minutes were simultaneously criss-crossing the company’s Tech Center campus in Michigan for separate stories about the Volt being the centerpiece of the “new” GM.
Peterson admits that because of a major Chevrolet 100th anniversary event wrapping up today in Detroit that involved several hundred international journalists, he has not yet had a chance to watch the Nightline report. Although Cameron jokes at one point with Weir about having relinquished a great amount of off-road power when he switched from a Hummer to the Volt, the Wednesday piece overall turned out to be a boffo bit of Hollywood product placement.