LOS ANGELES -- In an effort to reach a new generation of 20-something customers, Ford Motor Co. has plunged into the world of online social gaming.
As part of the launch of the 2013 Ford Escape crossover at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Ford partnered with Zynga Inc., a social game developer, to publicize the Escape through a game called Words with Friends, a Scrabble-like game played by fans on their smartphones. Actress Jenny McCarthy competed against 12,500 online participants during a Nov. 15 event in Los Angeles.
Ford spokeswoman Angie Kozleski said the event generated 1,000 tweets an hour on Twitter and reached nearly 7 million people.
Tweets and Facebook viewings have become almost like Nielsen ratings points in the world of social media marketing. Ford says one-third of Americans own smartphones and that one in three of those owners play games on their phones.
The game was the first in a series of social media initiatives Ford will launch as part of a new online, interactive reality series called Escape Routes on a Web site called escaperoutes.com.The Web site went live during the auto show.
Ford describes Escape Routes as a team-based competition. Participants will take part in "virtual and real-world challenges," according to a Ford press release. The online reality program will kick off in March, about the same time the new Escape arrives in dealerships. Escape Routes will consist of six two-person teams, who will blog and tweet online while they travel the country taking on various challenges, in a reality TV show-style competition.
"By revealing the new Escape through a popular social game like Words with Friends, Ford is able to expand its reach beyond traditional social channels to mobile platforms that engage a broader audience," Matt VanDyke, director of U.S. marketing communications for Ford, said in a statement. "This will be the first of a series of social gaming initiatives that are integrated into the launch of the Escape next year."
Kozleski said the average age of social gamers is about 28 years old.
Escape Routes follows other Ford social media initiatives including the Fiesta Movement, used in the launch of the Fiesta subcompact and Focus Rally America.
During the first phase of the Fiesta Movement, launched in 2009, Ford gave cars to 100 people, who drove around the country performing various missions. The company paid for their gasoline. During the first seven months, they traveled more than 1.4 million miles, generated more than 6 million views on youtube.com and nearly 740,000 views on flicker.com, both video Web sites. They also created 3.7 million Twitter impressions.