Ford Bets on Yahoo Reality Series to Promote Focus Electric

'Plugged In' Produced by Magical Elves, Company Behind 'Top Chef'

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Ford Motor Co., which has aggressively used social media to market to millennials, is partnering with Yahoo for a web series starting next month that 's meant to build awareness of Ford's new electric-powered Focus.

"Plugged In," billed as Yahoo's first "reality competition" series, will show two-person teams in various locations following clues and eventually meeting in a Los Angeles finale to try to win a Focus Electric. The series, which will be posted on the Yahoo Screen video site, is being produced by Magical Elves, which has developed and produced TV reality series such as Bravo's "Top Chef."

The Focus Electric illuminates to show that it's charging.
The Focus Electric illuminates to show that it's charging.

The Focus Electric is an important element of the company's portfolio, as it goes up against electric-powered competition that has already reached showrooms, including Chevrolet's Volt and the Nissan Leaf. It will initially be available in California, New Jersey and New York, expanding to a total of 19 markets by the end of this year. The price starts at about $40,000, before government tax incentives.

"This is a big bet on Yahoo," said John Felice, general manager of Ford and Lincoln marketing, at a press conference at Yahoo office in Manhattan on Tuesday. He said that Ford would promote the show through banner ads. "I'm not going to say that TV and traditional media doesn't play a role, but this is going to be exclusively an online launch," Mr. Felice said.

Yahoo will post each of the 10 episodes on a weekly basis, according to Erin McPherson, VP and head of video at Yahoo. The length of each episode is still being determined but is likely to total at least 10 minutes, Ms. McPherson said. Episodes will involve a celebrity host or hosts -- no names have been finalized yet -- who will be expected to promote the show through their own social media presences as well.

In 2009, Ford loaned 100 Fiesta models -- before they were officially on sale in U.S. stores -- to potential social influencers who were tasked with compiling videos about their experiences in the cars, which were posted on YouTube. Ford Global Social Media Director Scott Monty deemed the trial a success in raising awareness, although Fiesta sales have been lackluster this year.

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