Ford launches Focus Electric campaign with Yahoo!

Blue Oval opts for less expensive – but proven – digital campaign

By Gavin Conway on April 17, 2012 1:40 PM

Ford executives reckon it costs something like $100 million to launch a new model to market using traditional broadcast and print campaigns. But going strictly digital means the company will spend as little as one-tenth that amount when it launches the 2012 Ford Focus Electric.

To get the most bang for its buck Ford has teamed up with Yahoo!, which currently draws 61 million unique visitors per month. The idea is to create a reality competition series where two-person teams will take part in a series of challenges that could lead to them winning a Focus Electric.

The campaign is called ‘Plugged In’ and will kick off at the beginning of May. It’s timed to the availability of the Focus Electric in a number of U.S. markets and will be broadcast exclusively on Yahoo!’s video page, Yahoo! Screen.

Plugged In competition cities include Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Atlanta, Raleigh and Boston.

Another twist is that each town will feature a local celebrity as a ‘personal insider’ who will kick off each episode and provide clues that require contestants to complete various challenges while checking out the ‘best of’ locations in their city. The winning teams in each city move on to participate in the finale event in Los Angeles, where they will compete with teams from other regions for the chance to win a 2012 Ford Focus Electric.

Viewers are encouraged to share comments about each episode and upload photos of favourite places in their hometown to a special Flickr group page created for the programme.

“Ford is launching the Focus Electric on Yahoo!, once again recognising the power and reach of the Web as we continue to rely more on digital media,” says Matt VanDyke, Ford’s director of U.S. Marketing. “The electric vehicle market will grow over time, so we electrified our popular small-car platform with a targeted online campaign instead of creating a one-off vehicle with huge ad budgets.”

“Huge ad budgets”, indeed. One of the reasons Ford has opted for the lower cost digital launch is the company’s uncertainty over how well the Focus Electric will sell.

But this isn’t the first time that Ford has used social media to launch a new model – the small Fiesta hatchback came to market in 2009 with a campaign called ‘Fiesta Movement’. Like the Plugged In campaign, it relied on encouraging members of the public to compete in challenges and share their experiences online.

It worked, according to Jim Farly, Ford’s head of global marketing. The company spent $5 million on that campaign, and afterwards, 60% of Americans who said they’d buy a small car said they were aware of the Fiesta brand. Given that the Fiesta name had been absent from the U.S. market for more than three decades, that was a pretty amazing result.

The Plugged In campaign is paired with Ford’s electrified vehicle website at http://www.ford.com/technology/electric/.