Fiestas for the plebs

Ad Age reports on Ford lending 100 new Ford Fiestas to especially selected bloggers in exchange for their independence and a share of their souls. 4000 applied but only 100 were young, good-looking, could string two sentences together and had the sycophancy gene. I’m being harsh; the dozen or so bloggers I checked out were interesting enough. A couple of B-grade celebs snuck in there but they’ve chosen people from diverse backgrounds, skewed towards creative types. The totality of the their output – Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and blogs is aggregated on the Fiesta Movement site.

It shows again the progressive credentials of large American companies. They leap into new media because they are hungry for first mover advantage and the publicity that results. The combination of new media and big business is newsworthy (don’t ask me why) and the Fiesta Movement will generate millions of dollars in PR.

I saw a Forrester report that said Japanese consumers were more engaged with social media than Americans but Japanese businesses were slower to develop social media applications than Americans. I’m guessing this is because their media are less willing to give free publicity just because business has discovered a new marketing tool.

Of course, the potential of this promotion is not just what the bloggers say about the Ford Fiesta on their blog but the effect that 100 different streams of writing/video blogging have on the web more broadly; the conversations about the conversations.

It’s risky for the brand because bad things can happen when you surrender control of the message to people who don’t have a stake in your brand. They might be just a little too honest, though from what I’ve seen so far, they’re all too excited to be critical.

But there is a risk too for the bloggers, whose readers may find the car references spurious and commercial. Could damage their franchise but I think 95/100 will finish well in front. In all, I believe this is the biggest and boldest social media experiment in the world today. My hunch is that it’s going to work extremely well. And if it does, the new media dollar has just been revalued.

Here’s Judson Laipply’s fairly compelling video application to be included in the 100:

The marketing term for this is a No-Brainer.

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8 Comments

  1. It’s not as big a risk as it first appears for Ford. Blog reviews about the car are bound to happen anyway, so in essence they are managing the content by having ‘their bloggers’ do the reviews. It’s unlikely that the car that got top marks from Top Gear is going to be given too many thumbs down by any blogger that considers themselves a car aficionado. So what Ford will end up with is a whole lot of good reviews, by bloggers that have been vetted by them, showing up in the top 10 pages or so of the search engine listings. Smart move.

  2. They’d be mad not to give a fiesta to Judson. I am not even interested in Fiestas but I’d be interested to know what he thinks of it.

  3. Plenty could go wrong and I’m sure that Ford has some strategies in place to deal with them. However it’s no worse than having your car reviewed by the traditional media. If Wheels Mag disses your car you’re in a world of hurt. If a handful of bloggers does it, not so much. Plus they’re diluting any negativity through force of numbers. Ford are clearly playing on the perception that bloggers are ‘amateurs’ (even if they’re paid). They’re likely to be more forgiving and perceived to be more honest and reliable in their reviews. I don’t foresee many additional risks. Do you?

  4. Yes I see it as higher risk than general media. A bad review in Wheels Mag is not newsworthy but some blogger turning feral on a high profile project like this could blow up. I hope that doesn’t happen and I think it’s low risk, but more risky than mainstream media normality.

  5. Potentially, but Ford should be expecting that. I would consider it inevitable actually. Even a slightly unfavourable review is likely to be blown out of proportion by the MSM. They are being challenged by SM so that’s a natural response. However, I don’t believe that Ford’s target demographic listens much to the MSM. That’s why they’re using alternative avenues. YMMV.

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