Monday, December 5, 2011

How do you kill off a spokespuppet? Air New Zealand & Ford Focus

Sadly all spokesmen (or in this case spokespuppets) eventually come to the end of their marketing usefulness.  What's I've found interesting is how both Ford & Air New Zealand have gone about retiring their respective characters, Rico & Ford Focus Doug.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rico, Air New Zealand introduced their raunchy spokespuppet about a year ago to promote the new airline livery and seats (see below for the first spot)

The Rico campaign (developed by New Zealand agency .99) includes a series of online-only videos where Rico interacts with passengers, as well as celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Snoop Dogg, & Richard Simmons.  The campaign has been controversial, but ultimately successful.  Over the course of the year, Rico amassed more than 4.5 million Youtube views and 45,000+ Facebook fans(check out the Rico section of the Air New Zealand Youtube channel for the entire series).

Air New Zealand has decided to kill Rico (in a somewhat literal sense).  Rather than immediately moving onto the next campaign, they've created 'Cluedo,' a Clue-like competition for users to solve the mystery of Rico's murder.  Interestingly, even though the character was controversial, the competition is presented in partnership with the game maker Hasbro.  In any case, the user who finds the clues and solves the mystery wins an all expense paid trip to either LA or New Zealand.

All in all a nice way to wring a bit more usefulness out of an already successful campaign.  The competition is ongoing at the Bye Bye Rico site.  See the contest intro video below:

In Ford's case, they introduced Doug back in March (see his Youtube channel here if you're unfamiliar with the campaign) and it's been a big success over the past 6+ months.  According to Brand Channel:

Doug is being retired from active duty as a branded entertainment experiment for the brand, after a phenomenal run of webisodes. Ford targeted the generation of 10,000 Facebook fans for Doug; he now has 43,000. According to Monty, people have engaged with Doug on Facebook at a rate three times greater than for the vehicle itself. About 40 percent of online "conversation" about Focus has been about Doug.

And yet, as disappointed as Doug might be at being put back on the shelf, the campaign hasn't all been about "Doug," as much as his obnoxious persona would have it.

Talk about a Focus group — Monty tells us that 77 percent of people who saw the 48 Focus Doug videos to date said their favorability toward Focus has risen, and Doug's adventures have prompted a 61 percent increase in Focus consideration.

"We've even had a handful of people say that they bought a Focus just because of Doug," Monty said.

Rather than just quietly retiring the campaign, Ford created a penultimate video where we see Doug ditching his companion.  This was shortly followed by a farewell/retrospective video looking back at the high points of the various webisodes.

In both cases I like the idea using online video to extending the campaign lifecycle a little bit longer and going out with a bit of a bang rather than a whimper.  

Supporting Articles: Brand Channel | PSFK | The Drum