Ford Outpaces Industry with 25% Digital Spend
Ford Motor Company is spending 25% of its marketing budget on digital and social media programs, double the amount of any of its competitors, according to a recent report from BusinessWeek
Industry experts expect that other auto companies are soon likely to follow Ford down the same digital path, though perhaps not quite as aggressively. J.D. Power & Associates estimates that the average automaker allocates currently allocates 9% of its spending to digital, a figure expected to rise to around 12% by 2012, as more companies transition to social media and online gaming programs from traditional TV and print campaigns.
Ford defends its decision to put a lot of its eggs into one basket, asserting that it is going where its future customers already are interacting with each other - online. "If you are trying to communicate, as we are, that you have been reinventing the company, you can't just say it," said James Farley, Ford's chief marketing executive, at J.D. Power’s recent Internet Marketing Roundtable in Las Vegas. "You have to get the people to say it to each other."
A prime example of Ford's new digital strategy is its "Fiesta Movement campaign" an 18-month program launched last year that is designed to build awareness for the 2010 debut of the Fiesta model in the US.
Ford selected one hundred “agents” from more than 4,000 applicants to test-drive the Fiesta for six months and post their impressions on blogs and social networks such as YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter.
Months into the campaign, a Ford-commissioned survey found that approximately 37% of Generation-Yers are now familiar with the Fiesta, even though it still hasn't launched in the US and had previously been unknown among American consumers.
That percentage, Ford said, matches the awareness levels of other Ford brands like the Fusion which, unlike the Fiesta, have received hundreds of millions of dollars in traditional advertising.
Ford won’t comment on the digital program’s cost, but said it has so far generated 11 million social media impressions, 5 million social media engagements, and has prompted users to post 11,000 videos, 13,000 photos, and 15,000 tweets.
Offline, more than 35,000 people have decided to test-drive the car to date, while 50,000 potential customers have expressed interest in staying informed about the brand's launch.
Ford plans to build on the program’s success when it ends in November through a traditional media campaign involving TV, print, and outdoor advertising that will extend through the brand’s launch in early 2010.
Other Industry Initiatives
Other automakers have been making significant digital inroads over the past several years, including General Motors, which in 2008 announced it was dedicating half of its then-$3B budget to one-to-one and digital marketing.
Though marketing spend was slashed significantly during the company's high-profile bankruptcy, advertising for the brands still standing appears to be bouncing back, and digital initiatives continue. In August, GM announced a partnership with eBay to let California buyers haggle with dealers online without ever having to deal with them in the showroom.
In news about another digital campaign gone awry, Toyota's ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi is now being sued by a California woman for an digital PR campaign for the Toyota Matrix in which she said she felt "terrorized" by a fictional British football player who - in a series of emails, threatened to show up at her home and hide out with his dog while he avoided the police.
According to BNET, Saatchi did indeed run such a prank-style campaign, titled “Your Other You,” in which consumers could sign up their friends to be the subject of hoaxes that ended with an ad for the Toyota Matrix.