Advertising material for the 2014 Ford Fiesta will come from videos, photos and other digital content created by 100 young bloggers -- not by Ford's ad agency.
The strategy, revealed by the automaker last week, is designed to rebuild buzz for the subcompact, which gets new powertrain choices when it arrives late this year.
The Fiesta campaign, which starts in May, is a beefed-up reprise of the 2009 Fiesta Movement campaign. As Ford did then, the company will recruit 100 people and give them a new Fiesta for a year to create digital content about the vehicle, including tweets, blogs, photos and videos to be shared via social media. Ford calls these people influencers.
But this time, the influencers -- not Ford's ad agency, WPP's Team Detroit -- will generate all ideas and content used in traditional advertising.
For instance, a digital video shot by a Fiesta-driving blogger would be edited by the agency and turned into a 30-second TV commercial. The agency would then buy airtime for the spot. Photos from the bloggers could be used in print ads.
The campaign underscores Ford's embrace of nontraditional marketing. Many of Ford's recent vehicle campaigns, such as those for the launches of the redesigned Fusion and Escape, have used social media.
This time, Ford will see if sourcing all advertising content from bloggers will help raise awareness of the Fiesta and reverse the car's declining 2012 sales.
Because the Fiesta has been freshened, a Ford spokesman said, "we thought it was entirely appropriate to refresh and update the campaign structure as well."
Among the changes, the Fiesta gets a 1.0-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. The Fiesta ST high-performance model is powered by a 1.6-liter engine that generates 197 hp and 214 pounds-feet of torque.
Ford used the Fiesta Movement campaign four years ago to help introduce the car to U.S. consumers. The idea was to build online buzz before the car's summer 2010 sales and subsequent marketing launch. The advertising was handled by Ford's ad agency.
After the campaign, Ford received 132,000 requests to receive Fiesta information when the car arrived at dealerships, the spokesman said. Eighty-three percent of the requests were from shoppers who had never owned a Ford and 30 percent were younger than 25.
But after more than two years on the market, Fiesta sales have fallen while fresher rivals have overtaken it.
Fiesta sales last year fell 17 percent from 2011 to 56,775 units, a decline that Ford executives have attributed in part to the redesigned Ford Focus compact taking Fiesta customers.
In 2012, the Fiesta fell from No. 3 to No. 5 in the subcompact segment, behind the Kia Soul, Nissan Versa, Chevrolet Sonic and Hyundai Accent.
The yearlong campaign is Ford's most ambitious use of so-called crowd-sourced advertising, in which ideas and content come from the public.
Ford used crowd-sourcing to create its "Steer the Script" commercial for Lincoln in the Super Bowl. The automaker asked Twitter users to submit ideas for a road trip-themed Lincoln MKZ spot in the Super Bowl.
The commercial caused a bounce in online shopping for Lincoln and the MKZ, though the spot was panned by some critics.