Machine-Wrecking Band Hammers Home a Message to Young Car Buyers

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The deal: Ford Motor Co. produces a quirky “mockumentary” film series to promote its new Fusion sedan.

The result: The effort has helped the automaker capture men 18- to 34-year-olds via the Web.

DETROIT -- In an edgy new push for its Fusion sedan, Ford Motor Co. is running a viral “mockumentary” film series about a real band that would give the Maytag man fits -- it smashes out cacophonous tunes by smashing up clothes dryers, kitchen ranges and what looks suspiciously like an outboard motor.

Hurra Torpedo uses household appliances as musical instruments -- for instance, the drummer wields a sledge hammer to pound out a beat on a kitchen stove that is destroyed in the process.

By linking with a Norwegian group, Hurra Torpedo, conservative Ford hopes to reach 25- to 35-year-olds for its new Ford Fusion sedan. As part of the promotion, the marque is sponsoring the band’s U.S. tour and running an online sweepstakes to win the red Fusion driven by the band on the road.

Web site videos

The films, half reality and half fiction, feature some actors, such as the film’s purported “director” Pip Simon (described on the site as founder and president of Kankakee’s “In the Kan” Film Festival and creator of “The Making of this Movie” and “The Making of the Making of This Movie”). The films can be seen at and accessed from the three-man band’s site, The band plays itself.

“The episodic storyline was created to speak to the target market’s irreverent and ironic sense of humor and includes highs and lows of the tour,” said Linda Perry-Lube, marketing-communications manager of Ford Division. The goal is to reach younger consumers that wouldn’t consider a Ford.

WPP Group’s JWT Detroit tapped Kirt Gunn & Associates to write the mockumentary films, which were then produced by Radical Media, which was behind recent branded entertainment projects such as Grey Goose Vodka and the Sundance Channel’s “Iconoclasts” TV series and the “Meet the Lucky Ones” Web series for Mercury.

Word-of-mouth strategy

Ford quietly launched the site and tour in late November, and kicked off an online ad campaign across entertainment sites like AtomFilms, iFilm, MSN, AOL Instant Messenger,, Comedy Central and CollegeHumor to drum up interest. However, the company has mostly relied on word-of-mouth to attract viewers.

According to the most recent statistics available, the marketer said The Crushing Blow site attracted 535,000 unique visitors, each averaging 17 minutes on the site by mid-December.

At that time, the video was also No. 1 on iFilm's most popular videos, with nearly 500,000 views. And Hurra Torpedo even has its own profile, boasting 6,584 friends, who can watch videos and read the band's blog.

Research showed that 85% of respondents found the content “very appealing,” with more than half saying they plan to seek more information about Ford. The films, dubbed on the site as a “rockumentary,” are mainly capturing men between the ages of 18 and 34.

Other automakers' music initiatives

Of course, Ford isn’t the only automaker to have recently tuned into music as a way to appeal to potential young customers. Toyota’s Scion launched a record label last year, after having sponsored various concerts, clubs and contests. Mercedes-Benz offered songs through its Mixed Tape effort online, which generated millions of downloads.

Ford’s latest effort is the automaker’s attempt to pull out all the marketing stops for Fusion’s launch and pre-launch, including free flash-mob concerts promoted online, a video game and Web site co-branded with car guru FunkMaster Flex to reach urban hipsters. There’s also a site for Asian-Americans featuring the stories of four nightclubbers and a Hispanic-targeted site with a custom music-mixing feature.

Ford Motor increased U.S. online ad spending across all its brands by 22% in the first nine months of 2005 to $43.5 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence. In that same period, Ford cut spending in broadcast TV by $28 million to $325 million and increased cable TV spending by $47 million to $121 million.
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