In a speech to a group of marketing professionals at an Advertising Women of New York event yesterday, April 22, Kaline—in a speech reminiscent of Coke honcho Steve Heyer's call-to-arms at February's Madison+Vine conference— invoked the importance of branded entertainment as an important catalyst in this transformation.
Kaline, who coordinates media activities among Ford's stable of brands with a multi-billion dollar budget, identified Ford's Brand Entertainment Group, a three-year-old unit that works closely with Ford's brand strategy teams and Ford Motor's media group, as the workhorse that will carry the load for the automaker in this emerging space.
%%PULLQUOTE_RIGHT%% In his speech, Kaline declared there "needs to be a new way to measure, track and value the things we invest in." Those "things" cover a broad range, from brand-inspired merchandise to product tie-ins with movies to corporate sponsorships of landmark public events or TV shows.
Broadly speaking, brand entertainment is "a signal to media companies that the old model must change," said Kaline. Specifically, since its inception, the group has crafted numerous deals such as its multi-faceted relationship with Fox's "American Idol." Others include Ford-branded vehicles appearing in Fox's "24", starring Kiefer Sutherland, and Ford's sponsorship of a Discovery channel special "Countdown to Kitty Hawk." Currently, Kaline and the Brand Entertainment Group are soliciting and developing ideas for the F:150 launch.
Trial-and-error have taught Kaline and his crew to be patient. Some ideas work, some don't. "We are all learning. This is not a perfect science," he said. But he urges potential partners to pitch ideas not only for partnerships and projects, but also metrics and methods for assessing their success. The "tools for measuring this stuff are not all there," he said.
Still, because the automaker's media budgets are not getting any bigger, and media audiences continue to fragment, "We cannot be afraid to take risks," he said. "We're willing to invest in the right ideas."