As a first-rate cynic and an enthusiast of the English language, I reflexively cringe when I hear the latest “CBC buzzwords” (CBC is Canada’s version of NPR) that get thrown around by the sort of people who think that bicycles will eventually replace cars as our main mode of transportation in our future communitarian-utopia of urban living.
You may have heard them before; words like “vibrant”, “sustainable” or “diverse” inevitably always used as a positive adjective regarding one’s proximity to a farmer’s market or yoga studio. Describing oneself as a “storyteller” when one’s employment situation is murky at best. Describing any commodity good as “artisinal”. This is what I call “word torture”, and if George Carlin were still alive, he’d have a field day.
Imagine my horror when I logged on to the website for the latest installment of Ford’s Fiesta movement and saw it was chock-full of these nebulous descriptors. I nearly had to go back and read one of TTAC’s “Volts on Fire” stories just to calm my rapidly rising blood pressure.
For 2014, Ford is refreshing the new Fiesta, and adding a 1.0L 3-cylinder Ecoboost engine. They’re also dragging out the much touted Fiesta Movement social media campaign to help promote the car.
As we all know, Ford loves “social” – another nebulous word in our increasingly vapid 21st century lexicon. I am just old enough to remember when “social” had nothing to do with sitting in front of a computer screen, which was by definition, anti-social. Today it apparently means using a bunch of web tools to get people to create free marketing…err, “content” in the parlance of the internet.
Make no mistake, that’s exactly what this is. In exchange for a new Fiesta, gas, insurance and some camera gear, participants in the Fiesta movement are going to be creating free ads for Ford. Because after all, if you are not paying for a product or a service – especially online - you are the product. Well, your data is, but that’s another story altogether.
Previously, Generation Why has questioned the efficacy of campaigns like the Fiesta Movement. In addition to telling you how enthralled they are with “social”, Ford loves to tout how many impressions the Fiesta movement got; 3.5 million on Twitter and more than 6.5 million on Youtube.
Sounds impressive, right? Two problems here.
- 1) Those 6.5 million views are spread over 700 videos created by 100 participants. A friend of mine, with a Canon 5D, a rented Challenger and a B-List rapper, created a video with 41 million views and counting. Ford’s numbers look pathetic when more details come to light.
- 2) What the hell are “impressions” anyways? Frankly, I’m prepared to go out on a limb and label them a BS metric that doesn’t really tell us anything but sounds really good to people who nod their head out of fear of seeming irrelevant and out of touch.
Do the math and the average views per video is less than impressive. Think about it; we are all facing increasing demands for our attention, whether it’s TV, Netflix, video games, the internet, viral videos, past due bills, nagging spouses, recreational pursuits and in the case of Generation Why, making enough money just to move out of our parents basements and start a real life. Do we have time to watch some shitty amateur hack job of a video filmed on a GoPro about a car that will make us look poor (remember hatchback = poverty for everyone that doesn’t pray at the altar of European Auto Supremacy). Not a chance.
But Ford persists with the Fiesta Movement, the godawful Escape Routes reality TV show and the idiotic Jimmy Fallon Lincoln ad. It is astonishing that a company that creates such superb cars and manages to do a good job selling them (usually the two are mutually exclusive) is wedded to awful social media campaigns. Even Rihanna’s steadfast loyalty to Chris Brown is easier to decipher. It could be that Scott Monty and the rest of the “social” crew just need to justify their jobs and their lucrative compensation packages. The more likely answer is that nobody really knows which end is up, and everyone is afraid to say that the emperor is naked. At least that’s my impression.
N.B At the end of 2012, sales of the Fiesta trailed the segment leader, the Nissan Versa, by a roughly 2:1 margin. The Fiesta ranks 4th in the segment, with the Chevrolet Sonic and Hyundai Accent ranking in 2nd and 3rd. The Honda Fit is nipping at the Fiesta’s heels.