DETROIT -- Just before the Super Bowl kicks off Sunday, Ford will run a 90-second spot featuring the Ford Fusion Hybrid. But the spot itself is only a small part of the story, said Jim Farley, Ford's social-media-savvy marketing chief.
Ford is encouraging its more than 3,000 dealerships and their employees and Ford company employees to help create a buzz before the game and sustain it for several weeks after.
Farley is counting on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to be the conduits for the message. Most of Ford's regional dealer ad groups have bought spots during the game. Those spots will feature elements of the same creative as the main brand spot, Farley said. Ford created the campaign in conjunction with its Team Detroit ad agency.
This is how it will work: Ford sent teasers of its Super Bowl spot to all dealership employees, encouraging them to forward the teasers to friends before the game. The teasers alerted recipients to watch the 90-second spot, which will air between the coin toss and the kickoff. The spot will feature a couple of TV personalities: comedian Rob Riggle, formerly of "The Daily Show" and "Saturday Night Live," and actor James Franco, who starred in such films as Pineapple Express and 127 Hours.
The teasers feature vignettes that encourage recipients to click and "Tune in Feb. 2 to learn the meaning behind #nearlydouble."
"If we have 3,000-plus dealers and there are 100 employees in each dealership, that's 300,000 employees working in dealerships," said Farley in an interview today. "If everyone has 100 friends on Facebook, that's 30 million people. This is not just a program to expose our ad to dealer employees and be nice. We get almost Super Bowl scale by sending it to employees.
"When employees get the teasers, we want them to share that. Once we get in the game we know there are going to be fumbles and scores; we're going to have a group of people engaging everyone digitally through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter," Farley said.
One teaser vignette features a slightly manic Riggle saying to another actor: "Hey, Ford man! I gotta admit I'm digging the hybrid. It's like a combo of two amazing powers. Gas. Electric. It's like mythic. I don't know, it's like a griffin -- head of an eagle. Body of a lion. Can you imagine the sound that thing makes? Waaaaahhh."
Though Ford has not bought any spots during the game itself, about 23 of its 26 regional dealer ad groups have, Farley said. And those spots will carry on elements of the story introduced in the 90-second spot, followed by tags to the regional dealer groups.
Ford began sending out the teasers to employees and dealerships on Jan. 21.
Ford has also bought time on the Fox network comedy "New Girl," which will follow the Super Bowl. The show stars Zoey Deschanel.
"Ford will have a big presence" on the show, Farley said. "We decided to be there in all those places so you see a constant message."
Without giving away details of the 90-second spot, Farley said: "Our message is very single-minded. It's not necessarily about the product. It's about the company."
As with previous Ford social media campaigns, this one features a sweepstakes that viewers can enter to win a Ford Fusion.
Ford declined to say how much it is spending. Automotive News' sibling publication Ad Age estimated the spot could cost $3 million to $3.5 million. Last year the Super Bowl averaged 108.7 million viewers.
Farley said: "We're doing all these pieces and pieces working together," which "increases the effectiveness of our spending."
Here's a snippet of the pre-game commercial provided by Ford:
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