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Ford Focus Stars In New Web-Based Reality Series

Automaker teaming up with creators of “Amazing Race.”

by on Oct.05, 2010

Ford's new online reality series aims to avoid broadcast and cable advertising clutter.

Ford Motor Co. has teamed up with the creators of the network TV reality series, “The Amazing Race,” and the result is an all-new web-based show that will help promote the new Focus, which debuts during the 2011 model-year.

Dubbed “Focus Rally America,” the new reality program has been designed to run entirely online, with six teams driving the new car racing to address a series of challenges during the show’s five-week run.

“Focus Rally America” will debut next February, with the reality series carefully timed to complete just as the new model reaches showrooms next March.

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Ford and the producers have agreed to take an unusual approach with the series, however.  The show, which includes live streaming footage from inside the cars, will run entirely on the Internet, the series being uploaded several times each week to the Hulu website, which attracts an estimated 27 million viewers a month.

While Ford won’t discuss the budget for the show, marketing chief Jim Farley has said the maker needs to look for alternative outlets that talk more directly to a new generation of buyers, with an emphasis on web and social media opportunities.

Nonetheless, it’s unclear exactly how great the reach of the show actually will be.  Hulu’s entire monthly viewership is less than what top-rated broadcast series have traditional been able to garner, though network television has seen a steady decline in its audience as more and more Americans shift their attention to cable, DVDs and online entertainment sources.

One advantage is that Ford will be able to avoid the clutter that has made it increasingly challenging for all advertisers on network TV series.  It is not unusual to see several different automakers, for example, show up during the same commercial break, something once considered taboo.

The program also will attempt to do something that regular broadcast series have only been marginally successful at, encouraging viewer participation.  And, where the winning team will get $100,000, those who participate online could win one of 10 cars.

“The interactivity will make it more dynamic than real TV,” claims Bertram van Munster, whose Profiles Television Group agreed to produce the series after it was approached by Ford.

Separately, Ford has announced a new Global Test Drive contest that will take 100 entrants to a secret European location to document their impressions about the new Focus. (Click Here for more.)

Ford is by no means the only automaker looking to tap the power of the Internet with custom-produced video content.   BMW achieved a big success, mid-decade, when it tapped the then relatively unknown actor Clive Owen to star in a series of short adventures as the driver of various BMW models.  The relatively big-budget series featured star directors, as well, including Ang Lee and Guy Ritchie.

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