Starting in mid-July, the U.S. auto company's Fiesta brand will be the title sponsor of "Hello! Hollywood," a half-hour weekly Mandarin-language entertainment program filmed in Los Angeles and mainland China.
Metan Development Group, an entertainment production and distribution company started by Entertainment Television founder Larry Namer; former News Corp. executive Martin Pompadur and Amerilink founder Jean Zhang, created the syndicated show that debuted in January 2010.
Hosted by Chinese radio personality Andy Dong, "Hello! Hollywood" broadcasts celebrity and lifestyle news, including red carpet events, award shows, interviews with stars and features on Hollywood hot spots. And for Ford, episodes feature reporters driving the car on assignment and a New Ford Fiesta in music countdown videos.
"This is not a cut-and-paste version of a foreign show. It is being made specifically with the Chinese consumer in mind and the actual vehicle will be in the format. That was attractive for us," said Mike Nash, Shanghai-based director in charge of JWT's Ford business in China.
Segments highlight relevant connections between the American and Chinese film industries. A recent episode featured four stars of the Chinese remake of Disney's hit High School Musical, which was shot in Shanghai and will be released next month.
"Hello! Hollywood" also provides background that would bore U.S. audiences. A planned two-minute segment about the new 3-D King Kong ride at Universal Studios, for instance, was stretched to six minutes to explain the King Kong character and the history of the studio to Chinese.
The show's reporters cater to Chinese interests when interviewing celebrities, asking more questions about their lifestyles and background.
"The Fiesta target market is young vibrant Chinese, so obviously things like fashion, music and red-carpet events are areas they are interested in. The content was a perfect fit for the passion points of the Fiesta consumer," Mr. Nash said.
Fiesta has younger target market than Buick and Cadillac
The New Ford Fiesta was launched fifteen months ago by Changan Ford Mazda Automobile Co., a joint venture between Ford Motor Co. and Changan Automobile Group. The car is one of Ford's most youthful brands in China -- with good reason.
White-collar 20-somethings are a vital market for Ford in China. The company's two other models manufactured there, Buick and Cadillac, are aimed at older drivers. In the U.S., roughly 800 out of 1,000 people own a car, but in China, that number is just 80 out of 1,000. Most growth for foreign car makers in China today is coming from buyers in their 20s and 30s.
Fiesta is already a success for Changan Ford. The joint venture reported a 17.8% jump in sales in May 2010 to a record 23,742 units. Sales of Fiesta sedans soared nearly 50% year-on-year to 6,547 units last month, making the car the biggest contributor fueling Ford's strong sales.
The sticker price for the eco-friendly Fiesta ranges from $11,500 to $16,400, making it affordable for young adults buying their first car, often with financial assistance from parents who have never owned a car themselves.
Ads feature digital media
Designed and priced to appeal to young Chinese, the car is also marketed to them with a bold, sexy and mostly digital ad campaign connecting the brand with entertainment and music.
Ford's association with the "Hello! Hollywood" series will, the company hopes, expand the brand's awareness among young consumers who watch the show on TV or online. "Hello! Hollywood" airs on 47 city and provincial TV stations reaching 250 million households throughout China. During its prime-time Saturday night slot, it reaches an estimated six million viewers, mostly 16-to-30 year-olds.
An average of 300,000 web users watch the show online each week on one of the dozen web portals and video-sharing sites that carry the series. The show also airs on local TV channels for the Chinese community in New York, San Francisco and Vancouver.
"Hello! Hollywood" premiered in January 2010 with sponsorship by brands like Colgate and Philips Electronics, but their involvement "is not even close to the same level" as Ford's deal, said Mr. Namer, Metan's president & CEO in Los Angeles.
Fiesta will sponsor segments featuring the car
As title sponsor of "Hello! Hollywood" starting in mid-July, ads and on-air billboards for the Fiesta will air at the beginning and end of the program.
Changan Ford and the Fiesta will also be integrated into each episode, and the car will be featured during the five music countdown videos in each episode. Reporters will drive a New Ford Fiesta to events they cover in China.
The sponsorship will also extend to Metan's online video portal partners, as part of the "Hello! Hollywood" digital program.
Ford will co-promote the show on its Chinese web site (www.ford-fiesta.com.cn), "but I'm not particularly worried about there being too much activity on the Ford web site," Mr. Nash said. With more than 400 million Chinese now online, "we want to be a part of what our consumers are doing day-to-day online."
Ford wants to connect Fiesta-sponsored segments on "Hello! Hollywood" with its other online campaigns and marketing events, like sponsorship of foreign music acts playing in China.
Ford sees the deal with Hello! Hollywood as part of a bigger activation program for the New Ford Fiesta that also includes events, said Bryce Whitwam, Shanghai-based general manager of Wunderman, Ford's direct marketing agency in China.
"There are a lot of different opportunities to expand on it and the show is well done. China needs better content," Mr. Whitwam said.
"Our deal is not just about TV program sponsorship, there's a fairly large digital element. That's definitely an area we see ourselves playing in," Mr. Nash said. "The plan is to build the relationship long-term and be looking for other opportunities."
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