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Ford and Chevy Get Band-Happy to Reach Young Car Buyers

  |  February 22, 2012   |  Comments

Auto brands lean on recording talent to spark social media buzz.

Two all-American auto brands are turning to music-makers to promote vehicles in their 2012 line-ups. To push its redesigned Focus, Ford is canvassing the country, looking for unknowns. Chevrolet, on the other hand, has teamed up with alt band OK Go for a music video featuring the Chevy Sonic that has racked up 15.2 million views and counting.

Ford has partnered with Grammy-winning producer Don Was - who has worked with the Rolling Stones, Stone Temple Pilots and Bonnie Raitt - and "Mad" Mike Martin of the MTV series Pimp My Ride to create the Ford Mobile Studio, a recording studio in a Ford Focus.

Part of the second iteration of Ford's Gimme the Gig promotion, the Ford Mobile Studio launched on February 16 after about ten months of planning and development. Travis Calhoun, marketing development manager at Ford, says the build took about two months.

Ford originally used Gimme the Gig to launch its 2011 Ford Fiesta. It included a nationwide search of unsigned bands and culminated with winner Perry Acker recording with Was.

This year, Gimme the Gig's focus is on the redesigned 2012 Ford Focus. There will be three winners and the car is actually integrated into the contest, Calhoun says.

"We'll record the winning bands on the spot and upload the tracks to iTunes using the Focus's in-car wifi feature," Calhoun adds.

Ford launched the contest in June on gimmethegig.com and Facebook. Three thousand bands applied. Fans voted for these bands online, casting more than 350,000 votes. (That's up from approximately 200,000 votes last year, when there were a comparable number of entrants.) Bands then played at events held across the Western U.S., like Taste of Colorado in Denver and Snow Jam in San Diego. Ford announced its Top 30 bands in December and is now in the process of determining its Top 12.

Ford posts event photos on its Gimme the Gig Facebook page, which has 8,600 fans. It also posts video content and interviews with the bands and has a Flickr photostream with photos from various events.

The tour is an effort to highlight new features of the Focus. Calhoun says it shows potential buyers how the car looks, feels and drives. Attendees were able to use features like Active Park Assist, in which the car parallel parks itself, and MyFord Touch, an infotainment system featuring navigation, phone, entertainment, and climate control using voice or touch screens.

Once the Top 12 is announced, Ford will hold three final events featuring four bands at each stop. Winners will be revealed circa April.

Chevrolet meanwhile has teamed up with an established band to promote the Chevy Sonic in a YouTube video for OK Go's song "Needing/Getting."

In the video, the Chevy Sonic is used to make the music: OK Go's members drive a specially equipped Sonic through a track lined with musical instruments and other sound-generating objects. Devices attached to the outside of the car play the instruments and devices along the route, resulting in sounds that make up the song.

The video debuted during the Super Bowl.

Matthew Scarlett, manager of Chevrolet Advertising, says the target audience for the Sonic is adults 18 to 30 years old. OK Go 's fans enjoy seeing what video stunts the band will come up with, which he said meshes well with Chevy's target audience of engaged social media users.

"One of the attractions of working with OK Go was that people watch their videos and then have to watch them again to try and figure out how they did it," Scarlett said. "It is also something that is so cool, people want to share it with their friends."

That share-ability has helped propelled the video to over 15 million views.

It's also the latest musical promo for a brand that once used Dinah Shore to sing, "See the USA in Your Chevrolet."

A 90-second version of the video ran in the Super Bowl pregame. Chevy also ran a 30-second teaser ad in the post-game. Both of these ads pointed viewers to Letsdothis.com to see the full video. Chevy also supported the video on its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Chevrolet began working with the band six months ago. The music video required four months of planning.

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Lisa Lacy

Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.

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