Lincoln Mercury Tries to Get ‘Lucky’ Again

Ford’s Lincoln Mercury, which saw success with its “Meet the Lucky Ones” Webisode series, is launching a more elaborate branded content campaign this week. In two intertwined video series, one for the Mercury Milan and another for the Lincoln Zephyr, Ford hopes to build brand awareness and attract new customers to the brand family.

“Not only do we want to continue it, but we want to continue to reinvent ourselves in our space,” Craig Stacey, Mercury car communications manager, told ClickZ News. “We have to continue to do things a little bit differently as a pioneer in this area.”

LovelyBySurprise.com, targeted to the 35- to 45-year-old Lincoln Zephyr audience, chronicles the story of a writer, played by Carrie Preston, who seeks help from her mentor, played by Austin Pendleton, about her book in progress. The book is about a pair of quirky brothers, played by Dallas Roberts and Michael Chernus, who live on a houseboat in the middle of a field. These brothers star in TheNeverything.com, the Mercury Milan-focused Webisode series aimed at an audience aged between 24 and 39. Both are directed by Kirt Gunn.

“The author is writing about the people within the Mercury series,” explained Stacey. “They are two different perspectives of the same story that are part of a broader tale that is going to be a full-length independent film.”

Brand touches on both sites are light. Each film begins with the Lincoln or Mercury name, and subtle links lead viewers to the vehicle site. Apparently such branding efforts are successful, however. “Meet the Lucky Ones,” which used a similar approach, drove 400 percent more traffic to MercuryVehicles.com than the site saw on a typical day.

In both instances, the Webisode content is aimed at a crowd younger than its brand’s typical audience, reflecting Lincoln Mercury’s hope that Web marketing will help it rejuvenate what are often seen as stodgy brands. Both of the featured vehicles have been ambassadors of sorts for their brand families, in that more than 40 percent of buyers for the Milan and the Zephyr have been people who haven’t previously owned Fords, Lincolns or Mercurys. By choosing to focus on these vehicles, which have been popular with a new type of consumer, Lincoln Mercury hopes to bring new blood into the fold.

“Our conquest strategy is working, and this is only helping us,” said Davang Shah, Lincoln’s car communications manager.

The company has begun with an initial set of short films on each site, and will roll out new content over the coming weeks. The sites let users send links to a friend and allow for the downloading of content for later viewing, such as on a video iPod or Sony PSP. Making the video downloadable also makes it possible for people to share it on sites like YouTube. The company isn’t currently offering subscriptions to a video podcast, but says it is considering developing such a mechanism. It’s also looking into partnerships with video distribution sites. Though it didn’t name names, Apple’s iTunes and Google Video are both becoming popular venues for the distribution of branded content.

“We know people are actively seeking out this form of content online,” said Scott Kelly, Lincoln Mercury digital marketing manager.

To promote LovelyBySurprise.com, Lincoln will run banner ads on MSN, IFILM and Rotten Tomatoes. It will also run print ads in Premiere and Variety. Trailers for LovelyBySurprise will also show up on American Airlines in-flight programming, by way of a deal between the airline and the carmaker.

TheNeverything.com will get similar promotional treatment at sites like AOL’s Moviefone and Yahoo. Print ads will appear in Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, The New York Times Magazine and Us Weekly. A trailer for the Webisode series will also show up in Landmark Theatres, as part of Mercury’s sponsorship of the independent film theater chain.

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