Companies pay big bucks to secure top-notch talent as spokespeople. People like Lebron James and Eminem and Justin Timberlake command millions of dollars in exchange for an endorsement.
So what if a company wants a celebrity spokesperson, but not the sky-high invoice associated with one? The answer is simple: Make one. Out of a sock.
Instead of hiring an actual human, Ford’s masters of social media have created a “spokespuppet,” named it Doug, and given it the starring role in videos they hope go viral. As it turns out, though, the celeb star power is still there, just sitting behind the scenes and pulling the puppet’s strings. With writing help from the director of The Office, a writer from The Simpsons and talent from Reno 911, Anchorman and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Ford’s new videos are causing quite the comedic stir. But is it the kind that will sell cars?
I’m not so sure.
I’m not not going to argue that the videos aren’t funny. They are. You can expect lots of dry humor from Doug, along with quick wit and plenty of offensive slurs toward women.
While that kind of humor plays well on Adult Swim, I wonder what business it has coming from an automaker in an effort to sell a vehicle. I’ve spent many years in marketing, both on the corporate side and the ad agency side. Most marketing people will tell you that any buzz around your brand is a good thing, and it is, but when associated with a new product launch, like the puppet campaign is for the 2012 Ford Focus, there isn’t much room for recall. What I mean by that is this: People may talk about the videos and love the puppet, but will they remember it’s all an effort to sell the Focus? More importantly, when it comes time to visit a dealer, will the target audience of these videos be any more likely to visit Ford over Chevy?
I don’t think so. When you’re selling a product that competes in a saturated market awash with more brands than any consumer can keep straight, it’s imperative that consumers understand the product’s identity. Hiding that identity behind a puppet is good for some laughs, but little else.
You can check out all of Doug’s videos on his YouTube channel.
Do you like Doug, Ford’s new Spokespuppet?