By on March 9, 2012

Ford is launching a reality TV show dubbed *groan* Escape Routes, which will run for 6 weeks on NBC’s 8 P.M. Saturday night slot and on mun2 (a Hispanic network) at 11 P.M, starting on March 31st. Participants will ostensibly drive around in the 2013 Escape as overly dramatic music and poorly scripted lines spew forth. As if the concept weren’t nauseating enough, participants on the show will apparently interact with fans of the show online to “tap into the fabric of the local culture”.

Ford’s previous campaigns, like the Fiesta Movement and the Focus Rally, were touted by a number of maladroit geeks social media experts, but for all the millions of” impressions” generated by the Fiesta Movement, for example, the Fiesta’s tenure in America hasn’t been the most stable. Sales were up in 2011, but Ford’s supply of the car was said to be 126 days at the end of the year. As for March 1st, Ford had an 82 day supply of Fiestas, but as of February 1st, it was still at 127.

The issue with campaigns like Escape Routes is that they have the potential to seem contrived, cheesy and worst of all today – inauthentic. One has to wonder what kind of ROI Ford expects with these sorts of campaigns. The Fiesta was an all-new product competing in a relatively immature segment in our market. But the Escape is a strong seller even after retaining the same design and packaging over the last geological era. There is significant brand equity with the nameplate even if the car is completely different. This TV show can’t be cheap to produce, and one has to wonder if A) people are really going to tune into this program B) if the show will be discovered as a giant marketing exercise by Ford C) if there will be a backlash against such an invasive marketing effort.

As optimistic as I am about the new Escape, I can’t help but roll my eyes at the whole notion of a derivative rally program designed to promote a new car that in all likelihood can stand on its own merits as an American-made, fuel-efficient SUV/CUV that has some very advanced technology. Is such a well, goofy, marketing strategy really necessary, or is Ford simply lost in another bout of navel-gazing, egged on by charlatans social media  and other nebulous “creative class” types?

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54 Comments on “Ford Launches Reality TV Show To Promote Escape...”

  • avatar

    So a six week commercial for the Escape, huh? I don’t know…I think the potential backlash wouldn’t be worth it. Let the vehicle (which appears to be pretty good) speak on its own merits, without the side order of cheese.

  • avatar

    Who can take the time to read this article? There are more important things to do.

    I’m going to post:

    “Ford Launches TV Show to Escape Reality”

    and -then- go back and read the article


  • avatar

    Knightrider never made me want a Trans Am.

    Baywatch never got me to buy a yellow Ford Ranger.

  • avatar

    So just what great show is currently on TV?

  • avatar
    Franz K

    Dumbest Automotive Marketing Campaign of the Year contender

  • avatar

    how about a 6 week series on how nice the first gen Escape is verus this unibody sperm pod?

    • 0 avatar

      Now THAT would be more appropriate!

      Really, the styling/appearance of the current Escape is a very nice breath of fresh air compared with all of the overwrought “design” language which plagues most other vehicles in its class. It currently looks like the rugged, excellently packaged, and useful vehicle that it is, and now they are going to ruin this by chasing the “style over substance” crowd who just want these vehicles for the higher ride height/driving position.

      Now it just looks like yet another CRV/RX/Tuscon/RAV4/Rogue clone, which is probably desirable from a business perspective, but is boring and lacking in imagination nonetheless.

      • 0 avatar

        I have to disagree. I own a 2002 Escape (bought in December), and I don’t much care for SUV-like looks of the 2008-2012 Escape. I like the more alien-wagon looks of the 2013 Escape better than the other two.

        The thing is, I never wanted to own an SUV. I needed a small family-hauler with LATCH, airbags, and a trailer hitch. I couldn’t find the diesel or hybrid wagon that met those specs[0], so the Escape was the cheapest vehicle that I could find that met most of my requirements. The Escape actually works very well for me, but I’m continually annoyed by the fact that it’s too f-ing tall, and gets less than half of the gas mileage of our Prius. The new Escape makes some progress on the gas mileage, and the tubocharged engine variants might drive more like the Jetta TDI that I used to own.

        So, the new Escape shows real potential to be an upgrade to my existing Escape. I don’t know if I’ll buy one, since the C-Max Energi, the Volt, and the Prius V are all cars that I like more. But kid-friendly features and being able to tow a small trailer is important for one vehicle in the household, so we’ll see what all of these cars lok like and what we really need when I get that raise I’m working for, and when our next car is up for replacement.

        [0] I briefly considered a Jetta Sportwagen, and then I remembered that my 2001 Jetta TDI was a money-pit that cost me over $7k to maintain for one year. It drove nice, though, when it ran.

    • 0 avatar

      The old Escape is unibody too u know

    • 0 avatar

      This new Escape is a real disappointment. I hoped Ford would avoid the me-too styling of EVERYTHING ELSE OUT THERE and stay on target with the first and second generation Escape’s more utilitarian, masculine shape.

      I had a 2003 front-wheel-drive, stick shift Escape and it was a fantastic “truck.” The space in back was amazing, and with snow tires, it tore through anything. I only ditched it because of the vague, chatter prone clutch (whenever the humidity was high). But still, I put nearly 100K on it.

  • avatar

    So we get another “reality show”? We’re going to have a bimbo, a bozo, and somebody claiming to be the smart one? Yet another reason I avoid network television like the plague. I’m waiting for the next season of Mythbusters, yes I recognize the irony, to get here; it can’t come soon enough.

    The truck, nee wagon on stilts, looks nice enough on its own. Please, Ford, pull the plug before this begins.

  • avatar

    I’d toss my cookies over this one, except that Rick Santorum has kind of ruined throwing up.

    The Escape Hybrid was the car of choice for Democratic candidates during the last presidential election cycle. Hillary, O, and two others got theirs during the election cycle. O got his after being embarrassingly outed for his Xler 300C muscle car after he criticized the D3 for their “bigger, faster cars.” Who’d have known O was a fan?

    Two conservatives had prions, and one of them also had a civic hybrid

  • avatar

    Snarky blog writers don’t like it!
    Sure fire hit in the real world!
    Go FORD

  • avatar

    Honestly, I don’t think the cost of producing this show is going to be terribly expensive. NBC is partnering with this which will help, and there is likely going to be revenue from advertising which will help offset the costs.

    I really don’t think this is any different than the product placement that you see in much of today’s TV.

  • avatar

    personally, I like the idea. it’s already generating buzz and product launch awareness. granted there is some risk but no guts, no glory.

  • avatar

    If you people would stop timing your trips to the fridge or the toilet to coincide with the commercial breaks and start paying attention to the commercials then you could avoid these innovative new attempts at promotion. Oh, and when was the last time you clicked on an banner ad?
    As noted above, if you’ve watched any broadcast TV on a Saturday night this probably isn’t such and affront. Although it seems a wee bit desperate. Go Ford!

  • avatar

    It seems to me that there was another “road trip” show on TV a few years ago that prominently featured the Saturn Vue. On CBS, if memory serves but maybe it was NBC.

    Sank without a trace, as I recall.

    TTAC could use a periodic open thread about Cars on TV. Over time, more than a few have fallen into the “WTF?” catetory.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    At this rate, they should name the trucklet the Ford Flounder. . .

    Really, this thing isn’t a Jeep Rubicon and looks more or less like every other CUV out there, especially the “refreshed” Honda CRV.

    “Escape” my ass . . .

    • 0 avatar

      The Jeep Rubicon is an actual offroad vehicle.

      The Escape is a cross-dressed family station wagon.

      It’s also about 8″ taller than it needs to be.

      • 0 avatar

        And then the sales would plummet. When people come shopping for an Escape I never hear ‘I want to be able to go off road’ it’s ‘I want to sit up high and have some cargo space’.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s called self preservation. People recognize that that 8 inches is the difference between getting flattened by the front bumper of the F-250 or Sequoia and taking a hit to the door beam with some chance of surviving.

      • 0 avatar

        @Patrickj: “It’s called self preservation. People recognize that that 8 inches is the difference between getting flattened by the front bumper of the F-250 or Sequoia and taking a hit to the door beam with some chance of surviving.”

        That’s a myth, but I do recognize that it sells cars.

        I would like my Escape better if the height were about halfway between its height and the height of the Prius. I was looking for a cheap family car with LATCH, airbags, and a trailer hitch that is small enough to park in the parking garage at work — and the Escape matches those criteria to a T and it’s a pretty good family car. It’s also 2″ shorter and 2″ wider than our Prius, and those are both improvements over the Prius. My Escape weighs about 15% more than our Prius. But it’s too tall and the 2002 V6 gets half the gas mileage of the Prius — which is surprising for vehicles that are so similar otherwise. I’d like it better if it were less-tall and got far better gas mileage. What I really wanted was a diesel or hybrid wagon with a trailer hitch, though.

        As a young dad, I meet the description of the regular Escape buyer. I just happen like small efficient cars. I bought my Escape reluctantly, and I’d love to trade it for something less SUV-like. The hybrid and EB variants of the Escape are a step in the right direction, as is the less SUV-like styling highlighted in this article.

  • avatar

    Which is more unwatchable: Escape Routes or AutoWeek’s Vinsetta Garage?

    • 0 avatar

      How right you are! Ford’s six week infomercial could at worst be only the second most awful automotive show ever. The most amazing thing about “Autoweek’s Vinsetta Garage” is that Dutch Mandel and K.C. Crain make Courtney whatshername seem smart.

  • avatar

    I’ve become used to blatant car commercials worked into shows – “sponsored by Ford” or “sponsored by Toyota” Top Chef is a cooking show first but a close second is an advertising platform for Toyota. I probably see every one of their car commercials while watching, and they do at least a minute of blatant Toyota shilling in the show itself, sometimes more. Annoying? yes. Effective? well, it raised my awareness. Point is, I’ve put up with it

    If the OTHER content is good, I can see this being worthwhile. If it’s ALL thinly disguised car shilling it’ll get some backlash or just get pulled.

    White Collar is the other shill show that I watch, but works Ford references into the script. I’m sure there’s other TV that I watch that does this, but I must be used to it enough that I don’t notice much anymore.

  • avatar

    This must be why Ford supported SOPA, so no one re-distributes this show on youtube once its out.

    But who would?

  • avatar

    If you get BBC America on cable, you may have seen the European version of this show, starring Courteney Cox: “Kuga Town”

  • avatar

    Do I detect a hint or sour grapes, since another auto journalist was selected for the Focus Rally?

  • avatar

    “The issue with campaigns like Escape Routes is that they have the potential to seem contrived, cheesy and worst of all today – inauthentic.”

    Potential to seem contrived? The entire premise is painfully contrived. And after so many “unscripted” reality shows have been produced, I don’t know of ANY of them that are not patently inauthentic, even if they manage to be entertaining. And while I doubt that it will be any more expensive to produce than most commercials, I have to believe that this will be a complete waste of Ford’s marketing dollars.

  • avatar

    Ford has to balance existing sales against the cost of maintaining the ancient platform, and apparently they’ve decided to move forward.

    Since fuel economy isn’t much of a selling point for the replacement ($4-with-prospect-of-$5 gas not discouraging low-mpg sales), marketing is “creatively” highlighting the lifestyle benefits of the new design.

  • avatar

    The first gen model is the best looking, especially the limited model.

  • avatar

    How many fist-fights did Mark Fields have to win for this to happen?

  • avatar

    I was a contestant on the last version of this, the “Ford Focus Rally.” It’s basically The Amazing Race, but less risky (wouldn’t want someone to die on Ford’s watch) and instead of using public transportation, you drive around in Focus’s (or in this case, Escapes).

    If the game is the same as the last time around, and from what I know it is, it’s a very complicated game that involves gathering online “followers” who help with interactive challenges and such. Some of the challenges are like The Amazing Race, others are puzzles and stuff that are done in car via a live video/audio stream that your followers access, and interact back with you via Twitter and an “instant messaging” window that would never work right, at least for us.

    Was the Focus ever present and a part of the story? Yes, absolutely. We’d have clues that we would put in the USB drive and watch the video on screen, and they would always find a way to work in a bit of the car’s technology into the plot of the show. Was it as bad as, say, GM’s involvement with Transformers? Actually, not so much. Because of the road trip, challenge-y nature of the show, the cars did provide an added character to the show that, while flagrant in terms of being an advertisement for the car, didn’t take away much from what was going on with the game, or feel quite as much like a commercial as I felt it was going to be when I signed up. There were also many challenges involving precision driving etc, (all of which I won by huge margins).

    The best part about the show, at least from the point of a contestant, was that we got paid, win or lose. Of course you got more if you won, but most reality shows subject their contestants to (basically) imprisonment, and don’t pay them for their troubles. At least these guys were pretty up front about what was required of us and what we’d get in return, and it was a pretty solid pay check and overall a fun experience.

    The main difference with Escape Routes vs. Focus Rally is that my show was on Hulu alone, and Escape Routes is on TV. TV audiences, I think, are much more critical of the flagrant product placement than online audiences, who pretty much know what they are getting into. Derek uses the word “backlash,” which is more likely on a TV show than a web show, but if Ford and Profiles TV (the production company) basically do it just like they did last time, I honestly don’t expect that to happen. Worst case scenario, the show isn’t very good, but the odds of Escape sales suffering because there is a TV show built around it are probably very small.

    Ethical side note, and a question – as a journalist, I refuse, still to review the Focus, because I was paid to drive one for 6 weeks and 7,000 miles. But is it ok for me to do a review of the ST when it’s released?

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for that, Matt.

    • 0 avatar

      I was about to chime with thing about Ford and the “Amazing Race” tie ins / promos. They plug the hell out of the brand on that show. They only cool part was last season where the challenges involved driving a Mustang on a closed course to reach certain goal times (during a handling or braking section for example). Then CBS gave away a Mustang to the team that finished first on that leg of the race. This season it seems to be over the top, but clearly Ford is getting some buzz with the reality show stuff so they are going to keep doing it.

      However the show doesn’t edit out any Ford related problems. For example this season an Escape got stuck in some soft sand after someone made a wrong turn. CBS showed the Ford being pulled out by a Toyota (I think), so its not a full on 100% PR fluff piece having Fords on the show.

      Also I’m pretty sure anyone who makes onto ANY of these types of shows is paid. They always talk about the million dollar first prize, but I’ve read that 2nd and 3rd place pay pretty well… enough to makeup for the work/challenges the players suffer thru. If you see someone on TV they are getting paid – make no mistake about it.

      • 0 avatar

        I know several people who have done reality shows (The Bachelor, Project Runway, Bullrun, various dating shows, etc) and I know for a fact none of them got paid unless they won. Reality TV producers have a very easy time in LA finding people who want to be on TV so badly that they will do it for free. Of course all the expenses are covered, but most of the time, reality contestants only get paid if they win.

  • avatar

    At least I can just completely avoid this. There is no escaping their heinous “really surprised” interview commercials.

  • avatar

    Well, this probably won’t work. I’d say its more likely not to work because Ford exec’s will neuter anything about the show that might cause controversy (read: anything interesting).

    But at the same time, if there’s ever been a time for it to work, it’s now. The audience is used to transparent and contrived product placement.

    Hawaii 5-0 is basically a 1 hour Chevy ad, Fringe has blatant product placement (was for Ford the first seasons, now its Nissan), and hell, I don’t even watch very much TV so I’m sure there are plenty more examples. So this reality show isn’t so much a giant leap as it is the next logical step. If the show is, in and of itself, entertaining, it will do fine.

    • 0 avatar

      I think there may be a way to know *which* alternate universe that Fringe is portraying-Fords in “our” universe, Nissans in the current (amnesic of Peter) universe; I’ll need to watch some reruns of the “Walternate” and “Fuaxlivia” universe to see what they’re selling there.
      Or, I’ll wash some clothes…

  • avatar

    Let’s see– two guys touring from sea to shining sea in a charismatic car. That’s been done before, and done right. Remember Todd, Buzz and their Corvette, on Route 66?

    I’ve been enjoying episodes of this old TV series on Netflix. It’s a fascinating look at America a half-century ago. It’s the only dramatic series shot entirely on location, not on soundstages, so the B&W images have a documentary feel. The boys take odd jobs in town after town, so you see glimpses of factories, farms, fishing boats and the like. It’s thought-provoking just to consider the premise that everywhere they go, in the early ’60s, there’s an available job waiting!

    The writing team traveled several days ahead of the cast and crew. They’d cook up a story on the spot, write a script and film it in a week’s time, then move on. Route 66 stories were mysteries, usually involving a dame in distress or a shame from the past. Fistfights were frequent, but so was real tension and humanity.

    However “Escape Routes” turns out, “Route 66” is worth a second look.

    • 0 avatar

      I dimly remember “Route 66” — I didn’t have much access to TV in the early ’60’s, but I seem to remember that Martin Milner (can’t remember his buddy’s name) was the driver, and that if you saw the other fellow behind the wheel, then something was amiss. Of course, I could be thinking of “Adam 12”, too…
      Automotive product placement was a fact of life in the 60’s (especially for cop shows), but it was always disclosed in the closing credits as “Vehicles supplied by XXX”.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s right– it was Milner’s car, and George Meharis stayed in the right-hand seat except when his buddy as in distress.

        Besides their iconic Corvette, every parked car in the background was a Chevy. Can you guess who “Route 66’s” primary advertiser was?

    • 0 avatar

      It featured the best theme music of any TV show ever. Nelson Riddle at his best.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, a great theme (thanks for the link).

        Maybe it’s just me, but the opening theme to “The Simpsons” contains a little (slightly off-key) snippet of that theme – it struck that “Where have I heard that before?” chord with me more than once.

    • 0 avatar

      I’d be willing to bet that a well-worn Dinah Shore rendition of “See the USA…” might have shown during breaks ;-)

      Ah – George Meharis — I’ll have to check that show out on Netflix…

  • avatar

    Not to be confused with Bobby Troup’s hit, urging all to “get your kicks on Route 66.” Little of the show was actually filmed along Route 66, but they went everywhere else.

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