Finally I’m writing about a social media campaign right here in my own back yard. It’s one that nicely integrates a number of social media spaces, including MySpace, Flickr and Twitter. The campaign is for the launch of the new 2009 Ford Fiesta in Germany. It’s geared (pun intended) to young drivers, who of course are digital and online community natives.
The first thing that caught my attention was the MySpace page and a promotion centered around the theme “Mitten im Jetzt” (This is now.) Friends of the page were invited to upload photos and videos. These were then displayed in MySpace and on a giant Ford Fiesta billboard on the Ku’damm, one of Berlin’s liveliest thoroughfares. Visitors to the page could vote for their favorites and winners received iPod touch players.
Links on MySpace connected people to Flickr, where those who joined the community again could upload photos related to the “This is now” theme. An interactive collage made from these consumer-generated photos enveloped the car on the Ford Fiesta launch web site. A Twitter feed kept people up-to-date on winners, additional activities and events around the launch, and specific times when photos and videos would be shown on the screen in Berlin.
What should have been better was the launch theme. “This is now” doesn’t feel like much of an idea to stimulate the creative juices of the YouTube generation. It lacks edge. It doesn’t take a stand. And how does it relate to the new Ford Fiesta? The Ford Fiesta is hip? The Ford Fiesta is “the choice of a new generation?” Been there, done that.
Contrast this with the recent “I am a PC” campaign from Microsoft. Different target, but similar mechanism. PC/Microsoft users were invited to post videos that were displayed on public screens across the country in the US. That initiative had a clear strategy at the heart of it — destroy the myth that PC users are uncool, uninteresting, establishment types, as portrayed in Apple advertising. PC users are just as creative and individualistic as Mac users, if not more. What PC user wouldn’t be motivated to get behind that and post a video?
Ford Fiesta earns kudos for attempting to appeal to young drivers through the social media and communities where they live online. But they missed the boat in failing to build that effort around a compelling idea, grounded in the values of the brand, that would really ignite the community. Perhaps that’s one reason that the number of MySpace “This is now” friends (1344) and photo entries (944), as well as Twitter followers (68), was nothing to set anyone’s spark plugs afire. And I wonder to what extent this effort did much of anything to get even those people to buy into the brand and spread the word about it.
I recently received an eMarketer notice entitled, “Online Video Advertising Starts Looking Good.” eMarketer says that 65% of internet users now view some form of video advertising and projects that by 2012, 4 out 5 of them will. I presume these are US statistics. Now, 4 out of 5 is 80%, which doesn’t seem like that much of an increase. What’s more, eMarketer defines an online video ad viewer as someone who sees any form of video advertising at least once a month. That doesn’t sound like much either.
You also have to ask what we mean by viewing? Right now, video pre-roll commercials are one of the more common forms of online advertising. But if this is the best format we can come up with, it hardly looks like a promising start to goodness, much less greatness.
Here’s a recent experience I had, which you’ve probably had at some point as well. I was investigating a topic online, and clicked on a link to a video relating to it on MSNBC. Before I could watch my video, I was forced to watch a pre-roll advertisement for a bottled salad dressing. There was no discernible connection between the video I wanted to watch and salad dressing, food or meal preparation. Nor do I use bottled salad dressing. But if I ever do in future, I will be sure never to buy this particular brand. Not because the ad was bad, but because the advertiser forced me to watch it. So I guess technically I viewed the ad. But it would have been better off for the brand if I hadn’t.
Pre-roll ads adhere to old marketing thinking that the marketer can still control the message in an age (today), and an environment (the internet), in which consumers demand to be able to choose the commercial messages they want to receive and the time and place to receive them. Forcing an advertising message down my throat when I am in internet “search mode” is the perfect way to irritate me and turn me off to your brand.
The future of online advertising will really start to look good when, similar to Google AdWords, the technology can tailor the online video ad to the content of the video I’m watching, increasing the likelihood that the product advertised might be relevant to me, and allow me to opt in to hear the message if I so desire. I would think this is technically possible now and the only reason it isn’t happening is because marketers are reluctant to give up the control of message delivery they’ve enjoyed up to now.