What do Norwegians banging on appliances have in common with Ford's new mid-sized car?
What do Norwegians banging on appliances have in common with Ford's new Fusion mid-sized vehicle? They're both part of a viral branded entertainment effort the carmaker hopes will engage its Generation X target audience online.
The Norwegians are Hurra Torpedo, a band of sweatsuit-wearing guys who make music with kitchen appliances and are most famous for their cover of Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart." A video of the band went viral earlier this year, prompting Ford to try to capitalize on the phenomenon by sponsoring an American tour and creating content along the way.
"We really believe that we are in the right place by being on the Web and knew we could capture the imagination of Generation X if we had really good storytelling," Linda Perry-Lube, Ford's car communications manager, told ClickZ. Ford worked with its agency of record, JWT Detroit, on the campaign.
The effort mixes real elements, the band and its performances, with fictional ones, the booking agent Gabe Frazzelblat and his employee (and documentary-filmmaker wannabe) Pip Simon. As the story goes, Gabe Frazzelblat and his agency, Frazzelblat Entertainment (which also represents the "Donkey and Llama Kissing Show"), brought Hurra Torpedo stateside to do an American tour along Route 66. Coincidentally, Gabe's brother Abe owns a Ford dealership, and he's letting them use a 2006 Fusion to traverse the country. After the tour, it'll be given away to a sweepstakes winner. The sweepstakes is run by agency Exposure Marketing.
Since early October, Hurra Torpedo has appeared in venues ranging from The Roxy in Los Angeles to the Big Texan (home of the 72 oz. steak dinner) in Amarillo to a Sigma Theta Delta party in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
"They did literally go on a tour from New York to LA and played along the way," said Perry-Lube.
What's not so real is the intrepid documentarian, Pip Simon. Through her site, TheCrushingBlow.TV, Web viewers -- presumably Ford's target audience -- are treated to scenes from the road. Simon also has a Flickr photostream, and a roadie -- apparently hired through an ad on Craigslist -- has his own Yahoo 360 identity and Flickr account, as well. Hurra Torpedo itself has its own MySpace profile -- where viewers can watch videos and read the band's blog. So far, it's racked up 4,644 friends.
Ford thought having the band play oddball places would engage the audience with humor, while the episodic nature of a tour enabled the company to produce discrete video units that could go viral, Perry-Lube said. So far, it seems to be working. The video is currently number one on iFilm's most popular videos, with nearly 500,000 views.
"It's designed as branded entertainment to give great storytelling and a little bit of surprise and delight to the people who might not tune in to the more traditional type of advertising," said Perry-Lube.
To boost interest, Ford has run an online advertising campaign encouraging people to check out Hurra Torpedo's official Web site. The ad campaign has focused on entertainment and lifestyle-oriented sites like AtomFilms, iFILM, MSN, AOL Instant Messenger, MySpace.com, Comedy Central and CollegeHumor.
But Ford is most interested getting the target audience to share the content amongst themselves. "We're really monitoring what's going on virally," said Perry-Lube, noting that Hurra Torpedo has been mentioned on a lot of blogs. She said Ford has even been getting phone calls from people looking for the band. "We clearly are getting the sense that it's generating a lot of online buzz."
Ford will continue to update the various sites throughout December and says the videos will stay online as long as there is interest from the audience. There's also talk of perhaps bringing the band back for another tour or re-purposing the video for use in other digital marketing efforts.
"We still have a lot of legs to this campaign," she said. "We're starting to feel the groundswell."
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Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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