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Fallon Chooses Ford amongst Controversy & Salespeople Humiliation

Last month, I wrote an article on how Jimmy Fallon announced during “The Tonight Show” that he was in the market for a truck. Manufacturers immediately took to social media in attempts to convince the popular talk-show host that he should choose them, including Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet and Nissan. Fallon announced last week that he had chosen to purchase a 2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch. He then further announced that, while he had chosen the truck, he had not decided who he was going to buy it from. A cooperative effort between Ford and “The Tonight Show” conjured up a contest they named “Fingers on a 4x4,” in which 10 salespeople from around the country would participate for the opportunity to sell Mr. Fallon a truck, by putting their hands on a Ford F-150 located on the aircraft carrier U.S. S. Nimitz. The contest being that any salesperson would be eliminated from the competition if they removed their hands from the truck. The last person with their hand on the truck would get the privilege of selling Mr. Fallon his new truck.


There are a couple things happening in relation to this that have some people within the automotive community grumbling. Apparently, according to Variety, Fallon’s selection of the Ford may not have been a matter of personal taste, but rather, one of corporate politics. What’s not public knowledge is that Ford has a product placement pact with NBC Universal, and spends money for the privilege of these placements. This type of product marketing has been more commonplace since the advent of DVRs and the consumer’s ability to avoid watching commercials altogether. However, it’s much more difficult to avoid when the commercial is integrated into the actual program content itself. So, this may not have been as fair a fight as manufacturers were lead to believe.


Also, while it could be said that it is great exposure for the dealership which employs the winning salesperson, during the first segment announcing the ten salespeople, only two or three of them actually mentioned the name of their dealership. Not much exposure there for the dealership itself. And how does this contest benefit the salesperson? Sure, they get to fly to New York, have their five minutes of fame on the show. And then the contest is televised as they stand on an aircraft carrier for an indefinite amount of time for a chance to actually sell a truck. Any salesperson worth his salt should have more opportunity to sell a vehicle by doing the one thing that they do every day – show up for work.


There are certainly better methods that could have been used to create a contest for the selection of these ten salespeople. They could have been chosen by CSI scores; product knowledge; walk around contests; or any other means in which they get to show their professional ability to sell Fords. I’ve seen plenty of similar sentiments within automotive groups.


Ultimately, only two entities benefit from this arrangement – Ford and NBC. It gives Ford great exposure and solidifies NBC’s relationship with Ford as a value-add to a current advertiser. This may be a fun challenge for the salespeople involved, but many feel that in the grand scheme of things, it actually serves to humiliate them. Any good salesperson would have the ability to sell many more vehicles by staying put. And any dealer would prefer it if they were to stay put.


Do you think this contest helps or hurts salespeople?


NOTE: After 38 hours and 52 minutes of holding his hand on a truck, a salesperson from Illinois will be the one who sells Fallon a Ford truck.

Views: 698

Tags: contest, csi, exposure, ford, illinios, jimmy, kimmel, nbc, professional, training, More…truck


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Comment by David Sharp on April 14, 2014 at 8:54am

My friend Brian, I truly appreciate how you word your thoughts so well.  It's kind of ironic that I haven't commented in a while and it just happens that we both commented on the same post.  I absolutely agree with you about the 3rd party companies continuing to perpetuate bad stereotypes. I don't know if the auto business was ever as bad as people outside of it try to make it look, I certainly hope not.  I do know that this, odds are you can walk into >90% of dealerships out there and you will be treated well.  Yes, there are still some dealers that don't understand customer service, but that is by far the minority, not the majority.  I don't know if there is anything that can be done to change this unwarranted reputation, at least nothing that will happen quickly anyway.


I apologize, as I think that I am getting off topic.  Back to my original thought, if someone is going to shop for a car on the Tonight Show, there is going to be a comedic element involved-whether you agree that the comedic element is funny or not is another case.  I don't think that this particular hands-on event perpetuates anything other than the fact that there are salespeople out there willing to go the extra mile to make you a satisfied customer.  These folks that were selected were just a few of the many.


Just my 2 cents.  And, good to hear from you Brian, I hope all is well.

Comment by Arnold Tijerina on April 13, 2014 at 10:00am

Aaron, while I agree that the contest was for entertainment purposes of the Tonight Show (which is a TV show designed to entertain) and great publicity for Ford, it was all done at the expense of the salespeople. I watched the segments and was insulted. Every single time Jimmy referred to the sales consultants, he would lean over and under his breath whisper "car dealer" like it was derogatory.. all to big laughs from the audience. This "contest" was ridiculing salespeople.. literally. As for your "people will be more than happy.." comment... I've sold plenty of cars to celebrities and not once did it help me earn more business. Sure, it's a cool story to tell but customers really don't care that you sold a car to a celebrity. The fact that they then made the salespeople stand on the deck of an aircraft carrier with their hand attached to the truck to earn the right to sell this celebrity a truck is, in my opinion, embarrassing. The contest could have been run differently to actually been something that INCLUDED the salespeople and helped overcome negative stereotypes that the auto industry has but rather it was structured at the EXPENSE of those salespeople. I don't think there are any sour grapes here. Why on earth would Richard care if Jimmy bought a Ford, Dodge or whatever? I think he has valid points, personally. Salespeople are professionals and should be treated as such. Not with whispered insults and publicity stunts. Yes, the contest was for entertainment... but it was at the expense of the salespeople. That's what rubbed me the wrong way about it personally. 

Comment by Aaron Camus on April 11, 2014 at 6:30pm
I hate to say it, but this is ridiculous, and reads like 'sour grapes'. First of all, the Ford F150 is a hugely popular truck, and not because of Jimmy Fallon.

The contest was for entertainment. Period. Thats what the tonight show IS. As for the dealerships that participated, the whole thing can only serve to benefit the dealerships and salespeople involved. Even if it was a mini, I'm sure people will be more than happy to do business with the dealerships as well as the salespeople involved. Especially the winner.

This is such a short sighted and bitter rant that it really turns me off to your blogs. I hope this isn't how you deal with a customer who decides to buy a different brand or from a different dealership than yours. It just seems kind of petty.
Comment by William Phillips on April 11, 2014 at 1:23pm

Another Liberal idiot at work with all theory and not substance 

Comment by Keith Shetterly on April 11, 2014 at 1:04pm

Richard, I wish I could agree with you, as I highly respect you. However, I don't feel at all that this was something negative for salespeople. If Ford bought their way into it, so what. That's advertising! The salespeople . . . well, I guarantee that salespeople are more humiliated by the common "car salesman" stereotypes (which this avoided) and dealers who put blue gorillas on the roof of the showroom! Or make schlocky commercials about "Come'on DOWN!". To me, this promotion was fantastic. I wish they would do more to make buying a car seem fun and to make salespeople look fun. I'd buy from any one of those guys who had their hands on the vehicle. And so will the public, IF the dealership and they play it right. Thanks!

Comment by David Sharp on April 11, 2014 at 12:25pm

I don't think it makes any difference either way.  I will admit, that I tweeted to Jimmy Fallon trying to get him to let our dealership, (Elliott Auto Group, Mt. Pleasant, TX), be the one that sells him his new truck.  To the people who are whining about how this negatively affects sales people, to quote a famous ESPN celebrity, "C'mon Man"!  Please, get over it.  It was a cool idea by Ford to have the hands on thing and actually the hands on thing is much more consistent with the hilarious antics that you will see on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.


Personally, I love the fact that Jimmy let the country know about this, as it has given all the OEM's an opportunity to show their stuff.  They had the Editor-in-Chief of the Car and Driver (I think it was Car and Driver anyway) on there to talk about the positives of several different brands.  So while Ford may have had an inside track, everyone had opportunities to get their names out there.


Good for you Jimmy Fallon and good for you Ford.  You took advantage of a great opportunity to market yourself.  That is what this is all about anyway, marketing ourselves, our vehicles, our dealerships and in this particular case, having fun!


Does it adversely affect salespeople?  I don't think so, but then, I could be wrong.

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