Ford, Pepsi Raise Social Media Stakes With Hulu Show

Ford and Pepsi will sponsor a new Web-only reality TV show that will air on Hulu.com starting in February. The announcement highlights the two companies’ growing commitment to interactive marketing, and specifically social media.

The show, dubbed “If I Can Dream” and produced by “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller, will follow five young aspiring entertainers trying to make it in Hollywood while living together. The program’s 26 weekly episodes will consist of cut-ups from a 24/7 live stream at the dedicated site for the series, ificandream.com. The regular day of the week and timeslot for their premieres are still pending. Partial clips of the episodes will occasionally appear on MySpace and ClearChannel’s burgeoning network of radio station Web sites.

Both Ford and Pepsi will get in-stream ads that appear during the episodes, as well as banners around the video player. The shows are expected to include product placements, but it could not be confirmed whether or not Pepsi’s beverage and snack products and Ford’s forthcoming “Fiesta” car model are slated for appearances.

Ford hopes the effort builds on its “Fiesta Movement” social media campaign involving 100 young adults who each took road trips with the car for six months, while posting comments and videos on social media sites. According to the Dearborn, MI-based automaker, the campaign produced 5.5 million YouTube views and 675,000 page views on Flickr.

Pepsi will be playing up its “Refresh Project” philanthropic campaign, which will ultimately involve $20 million for community projects next year. The Purchase, NY-based firm appears to be increasingly supplanting mass media with advocacy marketing and social media campaigns. Yesterday, it was reported that Pepsi had pulled out of advertising during the upcoming Super Bowl.

“In 2010, each of our beverage brands has a strategy and marketing platform that will be less about a singular event and more about a movement,” Pepsi spokesperson Nicole Bradley told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, “If I Can Dream” will be the Los Angeles-based Hulu’s first full-length original program that’s recurring. People who watch online will be able to interact with the five co-stars via text messages, blog posts, and comments on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter — not to mention the likelihood of peer-to-peer chatter among show watchers in their personal social media pages and posts.

Also, viewers will be encouraged to upload videos at a dedicated MySpace page to audition for potential inclusion in the series. Hulu’s homepage will push the program in the coming weeks, but no other promotional specifics were disclosed.

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