When I received the invite to the inaugural Auto Trader #AUTOTweetUP, I was immediately struck by two things. One was a ruler that came flying across the office desk and the other was a small acorn that I’d collected during an autumn walk last year. Quite where it came from is anyone’s guess, but it did divert my attention away from the shock that I’d been invited. I was also slightly intrigued as to what on earth an #AUTOTweetUP was, but the mere mention of free food and drink was enough for me to accept the invitation.
Of course, the fact that the event was being held on a school night, some 210 miles away in London didn’t cross my mind. But never mind all that, this was a chance to mingle with the stars and visit the city where the streets are paved with gold. So I booked a first class return rail ticket for the ridiculously low price of £80 return and waited for the day to arrive.
It has to be said, first class rail travel is a rather pleasant way to move around the country. You sit in the comfort of a large leather seat that seems to have come straight out of a mid ’80s luxobarge and there’s a general air of calm and relaxation about the carriage. I recommend it.
But enough of the travel arrangements and on to #AUTOTweetUP itself. The event was held in the Games Room of the Hospital Club at Covent Garden. A rather swanky venue with a posh elevator that streams rock music through a small television. This is just as well because, as @Cameraman_Phil and I discovered, it is the slowest lift in history. It took an eternity to reach our floor and as alternative steps didn’t seem to be an option, we had to grin and bear it. I mention that I spoke to Cameraman_Phil, but truth be told, I didn’t know that at the time. Although pleasantries were exchanged, we were blissfully unaware that we’d exchanged tweets about Hobnobs and AC/DC via twitter. Ah, the power of social media!
Once in the room, I was greeted with a free beer and immediately engaged in conversation with Keith ‘#BangerDoesBritain’ Jones. Turned out that Keith was as bemused as I was to receive an invite, but we both agreed that we should make the most of it, enjoy the free drink and relish in the fact that there really is such a thing as a free lunch. The food was great. Lots of miniature sized portions of normal foodstuff. It was as though we’d wandered into Lilliput. Fun size hotdogs, fish & chips and beef burgers were passed around and enjoyed. There were even fun size roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. Sweet.
Having ensured all the ‘auto-tweeters’ in the room were suitably fed and watered, the team from AutoTrader confessed to the fact that they’d herded us into a room in London to promote some new campaigns they’re soon to be launching. One was a rather smart new iPad app and the other was their forthcoming television commercial. The company wants to make a big push to promote the new car section of the AutoTrader website, therefore moving slightly away from their traditional heartland of used cars. The ad itself is rather flash, using clever CGIs and the robotic brand mascot, who now seems rather synonymous with the brand. I was particularly impressed with the faithful recreation of the cars, as I’m sure were Mike of @SEAT_cars_UK and @GarethDeanPR of Ford who were both in attendance!
In my opinion, Auto Trader is the brand generic when it comes to car buying and selling. The brand is as old as me, but perhaps unlike me, it has managed to adapt to changing times. It first appeared on the internet in 1996, with a mobile site arriving in 2009, followed by the launch of an app in 2010. I’d hazard a guess that the majority of the general public would automatically think of Auto Trader when looking to buy or sell a car, but today the brand faces choices from all angles. From a personal perspective I’d look at Car & Classic, eBay Motors and Pistonheads before looking at Auto Trader. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but I’ve even just noticed it is the only one of the ‘big four’ that doesn’t appear on my bookmark toolbar. Maybe the new ad wil change this! I do spend rather a lot of time on their excellent iPhone app, which has replaced the old magazine as essential downstairs cloakroom reading!
After the corporate spiel it was time to get back to proper offline chit-chat. It was genuinely great to know that conversations and friendships formed by the medium of twitter could seamlessly carry over to real life. As you’d expect, the conversation predominantly focused on matters of an automotive nature. Heck, who am I trying to kid? The conversation completely focused on matters of an automotive nature. But no matter. Once folk had got over the inevitable problem of inserting hashtags and @ signs mid-sentence, the conversation flowed brilliantly and a good time was had by all.
At last orders we were politely sent on our way with a goody bag and a thank you for coming along. But fortunately for me, I was invited for a post-event beer with four legends of the automotive journalism world, namely Mr Jon Quirk, Mr Alex Goy, Mr Cameraman Phil and Mr Owen Ready. Quite how a small time blogger ended up in such esteemed company is anyone’s guess, but I took the opportunity and enjoyed a thoroughly good chat. Thanks for the beer Mr Ready and I look forward to hooking up with the Podisode chaps for a future feature.
So all-in-all, despite the journey time and the overnight stay, this was a worthwhile event for me. I met some great people, enjoyed some good food and came away with lots of new ideas for PetrolBlog. I have to say a big thank you to @AutoTrader_UK for the invite and I’d encourage them to do something similar again in the future. If you’re fortunate enough to get an invite, make sure you accept it.
I now know what an AUTOTweetUp is. The irony is, very few tweets were sent during the party as we were all too busy chatting. And I for one salute that fact.