Ford Motor Co. is bringing a standard sales tool at auto dealerships -- the walk-around -- to new media.
Starting this week, the Ford brand is offering a 10-minute audio podcast that promotes the mid-sized 2006 Fusion. A podcast is an audio or video file that Internet users can download and transfer to a portable media player, such as Apple Computer's iPod.
A walk-around typically occurs on a showroom floor, conducted by a dealership salesperson. The podcast provides similar kick-the-tires information about the Fusion's interior and exterior features.
"We haven't seen a whole lot of marketing-based podcasts, unless it is music-oriented," says Brian Bos, convergence director of Ford's advertising agency, JWT in Detroit.
"But we have to experiment. It provides a consumer a little of the personality of the product."
The podcast is available initially at myford.fordvehicles.com, a Web site for Ford owners. Ford will notify Fusion buyers of the podcast, Bos says. He would not disclose its cost.
Using male and female voiceovers, the podcast describes the Fusion's interior leg, shoulder and headroom; six-way seat adjustments; and flat-folding rear seats. "It's meant to familiarize you with the product," Bos says.
The Ford brand expects to offer an edited version of the podcast for car shoppers at the brand's Web site, fordvehicles.com, by late June or early July, Bos says. The podcast "needs to be tweaked" for potential customers, he told Automotive News.
The current version "implies you have the product in front of you, or you are in the car," he said. "This one is a little too detailed to deliver to a consumer who is a prospective buyer."
Bos concedes the audience for the Fusion podcast is likely to be small. An estimated 11 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 to 49 own an iPod or MP3 player, Bos says. Of them, he adds, 2 percent have listened to a podcast.
The most popular podcasts -- such as content from National Public Radio or rebroadcasts of the ABC TV show "Lost" -- attract about 120,000 users a month, Bos says.
It will be hard to assess the effectiveness of the Fusion podcast, he says.
"We can measure the amount of people who download it, but you can't really find out how long they listened to it," Bos says. "Did they make it to three minutes? Five minutes? It is difficult to understand what the consumer is doing with the medium."
Still, Bos says, the Fusion podcast "provides another outlet" to reach the young consumers who make up the car's target audience.
"These consumers are early technology adopters and very aggressive over having control over their news and information," he says. "It's a new way to engage the consumer. We are going to experiment with products that cater to this audience."
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