Feeling Bored? Ford Wants to Hear About It

Asks Consumers to Show How Dull Their Lives Are, Uses Theme to Integrate Escape Into 'On the Lot'

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DETROIT -- JWT Team Detroit dreamed up a branded-entertainment plan for the 2008 Ford Escape to fit the automaker's strategy that the compact SUV is fun to drive and to appeal to younger prospective car buyers -- or to those dying of boredom.

Ford hopes the fictional Colin Padden helps prospective car buyers fight boredom. The automaker has paired the Escape with Fox's 'On the Lot.'

To match that target demographic, the blitz is centered around a website, boredomhurts.com. The site features a fictional grad student, Colin Padden, as a boredom-fighting host. Visitors are encouraged to post photos or videos of evidence of dullness in their lives for the chance to win a new Escape and an undisclosed boredom-busting adventure.

Some of the videos are funny in a "Jackass" way -- in one, a woman clips clothespins to her face (putting real meaning to "boredom hurts"). Another video, posted by one "karldick," is a Rube Goldberg-inspired effort in which copy machines, files and other office supplies are used to create an elaborate series of chain reactions that eventually lead to bowling pins being knocked down; the setup is supposed to be a cure for boredom at work.

Integrated into TV show's website
This week, Mr. Padden was woven into the website for the Fox reality TV show "On the Lot," from Mark Burnett Productions. The show will give one aspiring filmmaker the chance to work with Steven Spielberg.

Visitors to either Ford's site or thelot.com will find that Colin is "contestant 51," one of the wanna-be directors in the show's selection process. Though viewers won't get to vote on the Ford-backed video shorts as they do for the other actual contestants, Colin will create a short film in the same movie genre required weekly of "On the Lot" contenders, said Curt Jaksen, senior VP, JWT Team Detroit.

The theme for each of his seven genre films will be an intervention to boredom, and the shorts will run on Ford's site as well as on thelot.com. The Ford Escape will be integrated periodically into the twice-weekly TV show, and if the aspiring filmmakers need vehicles for their movies, Ford will provide them, Mr. Jaksen said.

In this image from a clip on boredomhurts.com, one woman takes the website's name perhaps a little too seriously.

And starting tonight the Escape will be integrated into "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" on CBS. The host will send members of his staff out on the road every week to film their escapes from boredom. Look for Colin Padden to make cameo appearances in a segment or two.

Inspired by ad buys
The inspiration for the two TV integrations were simple ad buys from JWT's WPP Group sibling Group M. After learning of the buys, JWT developed the Colin character and website. "This is an interesting way to give the vehicle personality," said Mr. Jaksen, who declined to discuss spending.

Both Mr. Burnett and Fox declined comment through a spokesman. Ford's Usha Raghavachari, marketing manager for Escape, didn't return calls.

"On the Lot" earned a 2 rating from its debut May 28 through June 19, and of the average 3.16 million viewers per show, 995,000 were 34 and under, according to the Nielsen TV National People Meter. Nielsen estimated the median age of the show's viewers is 37 years old.

During the same period, "The Late Late Show" earned a 1.4 rating, averaged 1.8 million viewers nightly, with 207,000 of them 34 and under, according to Nielsen. The estimated median age of those tuning into the show is 49.

Increased spending
Ford introduced the Escape in 2000 as a 2001 model. Although Ford cut ad spending on the small SUV to just $17 million in 2002, that figure was boosted to $45 million the next year, based on figures for measured media from TNS Media Intelligence. Ford backed the Escape last year with $72 million in measured media.

Ford said combined sales of the hybrid and regular Escape through May tallied 73,058 units, flat from a year ago, although Escape Hybrid sales rose by 304 units to 9,525 vs. the same period in 2006.
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