DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is turning to viral media for the pre-launch of the 2012 Focus, due in U.S. showrooms next March.
Ford today started recruiting 12 challengers to drive the new Focus in a cross-country competition developed by Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri, the creators and producers of the Emmy-winning CBS reality show “The Amazing Race.”
The Focus Rally: America will stream on Hulu.com for five weeks starting Feb. 1 in 30-minute shows, but there also will be three-minute online clips. Applicants for the six teams of two people can go to www.focusrally.com. Ford also will hold live casting calls in 11 cities.
To compete in challenges, the contestants will use technology in the Focus, such as Sync and a rearview camera. Consumers can follow the teams on Facebook and actively help their favorite in challenges and the chance to win one of 10 new Focuses.
The Ford-Microsoft Sync system is a popular feature on Ford brand models -- standard in some -- with a take rate of about 75 percent across the lineup, said Matt Van Dyke, director of Ford’s marketing in the United States.
“We love the tie-in with social media and getting millions of people to play along at home,” said Van Dyke. “What sets us apart at Ford is engaging people.”
He said Ford expects audience results to be similar to its successful social media blitz for the Fiesta subcompact, a marketing campaign that resulted in more than 6 million video views on YouTube and strong awareness and consideration for the new model.
Van Dyke estimated that the Focus blitz will be spread virally by contestants and consumers to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and mobile phones.
The deal wasn’t made during the annual TV commercial buying period -- known as upfronts -- or through an ad sponsorship deal with “The Amazing Race,” Van Dyke said.
U.S. Focus sales totaled 132,253 through September, a 7 percent increase from the year-ago period. Last month Ford sold 13,587 Focuses, a 47 percent jump from the prior September.