Electric cars: ‘Plug-ins’ look for spark in 2012

Automakers in 2012 will launch 13 plug-in vehicles, running on electricity alone all or most of the time. This is the year that will tell whether the electric car market has a roaring liftoff or a slow-rolling start, analysts say.

It’s early yet, but 2012 is shaping up as a white-knuckle Year 2 for the makers of new “plug-in” vehicles, who have wagered billions that the appeal of new electric-drive technologies will surmount hurdles not only from a weak-as-a-kitten economy, but also from high sticker prices and a spate of unfavorable publicity.

Continue reading Electric cars: ‘Plug-ins’ look for spark in 2012

2011 Ford Fiesta: ‘It’s A Pretty Big Deal’

* Ford is launching the all-new 2011 Ford Fiesta with a broad-reaching advertising campaign built around the theme, “It’s a pretty big deal”

* The new campaign shares the same nontraditional approach that defined the Fiesta Movement, an initiative that introduced the new small car to consumers through socially vibrant agents who have been driving Fiestas in monthly themed missions and relating their experiences through social media sites

* The campaign also includes a significant multicultural element to reach out to two of the largest consumer groups in the small car segment — young African Americans and Hispanics

The same type of out-of-the-box thinking that led to the groundbreaking Fiesta Movement social media initiative is reflected in a new ad campaign to launch Ford’s all-new small car, the 2011 Ford Fiesta.

“The Fiesta Movement enabled us to introduce the car to market in a whole new way,” said Matt VanDyke, Ford’s director of U.S. Marketing Communications. “We are continuing that nontraditional approach with a unique advertising campaign designed to get people’s attention by entertaining them as well as educating them about the vehicle.”

The ad campaign for the new Fiesta – which arrives in dealer showrooms this summer – includes national broadcast, print, digital and out-of-home components as well as a comprehensive multicultural marketing strategy. The entire campaign is built around the theme, “It’s a pretty big deal.”

“The new Fiesta will deliver up to 40 mpg on the highway. It comes with the kind of agility and horsepower that make it a blast to drive, and it features more new-world technology than any other car of its kind – like push-button start, keyless entry and the SYNC® hands-free communications and entertainment system,” said VanDyke. “It’s a pretty big deal, and we’re putting the media and creativity behind it to deliver that message to consumers.”

2011 Ford Fiesta ads: A nontraditional approach

A new 60-second television ad for the Fiesta debuts tomorrow night during the live broadcast of “American Idol,” which airs 8 to 9 p.m. EDT on FOX. It opens with two people sitting in a Fiesta talking about the vehicle’s push-button start feature.

“From there, a whimsical world starts to unfold all around them, and you see the product messages brought to life in organic, over-the-top ways,” said VanDyke.

The 60-second ad also will be running in cinemas this summer, appearing on the big screen just before the movies start. One of the films expected to draw huge crowds to the theater is “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” which opens June 30.

The print ads get straight to the point with headlines like, “The Fiesta gets 40 miles per gallon. 21 hybrids do not,” and “The Fiesta has enough new-world technology to put a 50-grand car to shame.” The ads will be featured in a variety of publications – from women’s magazines like “In Style” to men’s lifestyle titles like “GQ.”

Billboards for the Fiesta also reflect an unconventional approach.

“Imagine a billboard positioned strategically above a gas station with the 40 mpg message and copy that reads, ‘Not everybody’s happy about it,'” explained VanDyke.

In addition to television commercials, print ads and billboards, the new campaign also includes extensive digital advertising, which directs consumers to the www.fordvehicles/fiesta website.

Unique webisodes combine information with entertainment

Ford is expanding the Fiesta website to include webisodes featuring agents of the Fiesta Movement proving – in their own unique ways – why Fiesta is better than the competition. More than 500,000 people have viewed the first six webisodes since they debuted last week.

“We selected some of our most creative, funny and socially vibrant agents to help us showcase the vehicle’s class-exclusive features,” said Jonathan Beebe, Ford Digital Communications manager. “Not only do they know the vehicle inside and out, because they drove real-world miles on it with the Fiesta Movement, they also know how to make the webisodes relevant and engaging to their peers – digital or otherwise.”

For example, to illustrate the benefit of having Intelligent Access with push-button start, one of the agents decided to put the Fiesta up against the Toyota Yaris, which doesn’t even have keyless entry, and the Honda Fit, which has keyless entry but doesn’t have push-button start.

In “Dawn of the New Key Fob,” a zombie chases all three drivers through the woods. The Yaris and Fit owners don’t make it into their vehicles in time, but the Fiesta driver gets into his car and drives away before the zombie attack.

“Some of the webisodes are hilarious,” said Beebe. “We try not to take ourselves too seriously – the Fiesta is too much fun for that. The agents help us poke a little fun at ourselves and our competitors, while combining vehicle information and entertainment.”

Fiesta agent Brittani Taylor appears in a webisode titled “Fiesta vs. Lamborghini,” which pits the Fiesta against a $200,000-plus Lamborghini sports car.

“I’m an actress, so I had a lot of fun with it,” said Taylor, who amassed more than 300,000 subscribers on YouTube and 46,000 followers on Twitter during her stint as a Fiesta agent. “The Fiesta wasn’t as fast as the Lamborghini on the straightaway, but when it came to cornering and cool features like capless fuel-filler and push-button start, it was all about the Fiesta.”

There will be a total of 16 webisodes. The first set is already online. The second group will post in June.

“Our goal is to make people take a left-hand turn from their usual online browsing routine to check out how the Fiesta and its class-exclusive features can meet their driving needs,” said Beebe. “A zombie invasion might just convince them.”

2011 Ford Fiesta: Multicultural appeal

Research shows that two of the largest consumer groups in the small car segment are young African Americans and Hispanics. Ford has developed a multicultural marketing and advertising campaign designed specifically to communicate the Fiesta message to them.

To increase awareness of the Fiesta in the African American community, Ford launched a program called “Inspired by Color,” which challenged people to use their own personal style to connect with the colors and distinct features of the new Fiesta. Last month, more than 150 people turned out for a casting call at Howard University in Washington, D.C., dressed in a Fiesta-inspired way. Five finalists were chosen, and they will appear in a new television ad for the Fiesta that begins airing on the BET network June 1.

“Our goal was to create a unique program that truly embodied the spirit of Fiesta,” said Crystal Worthem, Ford Multicultural Marketing manager. “The Fiesta has an expressive, vibrant design and we wanted to tap into those style attributes in a way that was relevant to our target audience.”

In addition, radio commercials for Fiesta – produced with an urban flair – will air on 132 urban and adult contemporary stations in 78 markets throughout the country.

According to David Rodriguez, Ford Multicultural Communications manager, the small car segment has a high concentration of Hispanic buyers – the largest of any automotive segment –and many of them are bilingual.

“What’s unique about our marketing effort for Fiesta is that we’re focusing on bilingual to Spanish-dominant Hispanic consumers,” said Rodriguez. “Digital advertising will play a key role because we know that Hispanics over-index compared to average consumers on their use of the Internet.”

A combination of portal digital advertising and extensive social media outreach will direct traffic to www.readypatumundo.com (which means “ready for your world” in Spanish). The website provides a consumer-centric introduction to the Fiesta, focusing on SYNC, push-button start and the overall design of the vehicle.

“The website is unique in that the consumer can control how the words will show up in terms of being more Spanish-based or more English-based,” said Rodriguez. “The technology is a first for Ford.”

In addition to digital advertising, Ford will increase Fiesta awareness in the Hispanic community through print and broadcast advertising. The ads, which will be predominantly Spanish with some English phrasing, will run nationally with emphasis in five target markets with the highest concentration of Hispanic small car customers: Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, New York and Chicago.

Nissan to Begin Firming Up Leaf Reservation List

More than 115,000 Americans have gone on the Internet and registered their interest in the 2011 Nissan Leaf battery electric car, and beginning Tuesday the company will begin trying to move those electronic tire-kickers onto the more select reservation list. The price to get on the waiting list for the first round of cars is $99, which is refundable if you buy a Leaf or opt out of the program.

The timing two days before Earth Day is coincidental, said Mark Perry, a Nissan spokesman. The Leaf will cost $32,780, but there is a $7,500 federal tax credit and various state incentives, including a $5,000 cash rebate in what will undoubtedly be one of the car’s strongest markets, California.
Continue reading Nissan to Begin Firming Up Leaf Reservation List