Ford has sidestepped high profile celebrity endorsement in its latest marketing campaign in favour of a fairly shoddy looking orange hand puppet, as it opts for a promotion centred on comedy.
The orange puppet in question is called Doug, who after rising to fictional viral fame – by foiling a store robbery, saving a choking victim and performing CPR on a fat man on a bus – becomes the new ambassador for Ford.
Positioned somewhere between Flat Eric and Zippy, Doug is not as cuddly or childlike as his exterior suggests as he repeatedly attempts to hit on women, be they Ford employees or journalists. He is kept in check by his comedy sidekick straight man, fictional Ford marketing executive John, even as he attempts to crack onto John’s boss. Naturally, Doug has his own Facebook and Twitter profile, part of which includes his own collection of photos of “Hot Chicks” he meets on his ambassador journey.
Paul F. Tompkins, of Anchorman: The Legend of Run Burgundy plays the role of John (and also voices Doug) in the series of web shorts, which, somewhat surprisingly, are actually quite funny. This is down to the fact that Ford has put some serious comedy muscle behind its soft and furry ad exterior, roping in a writer for The Simpsons and the director of both The Office and Freaks and Geeks.
Sparked on by the runway success of Toyota’s Swagger Wagon viral mini series, Comedy is fast becoming the new rock n’ roll for auto brands. Volkswagen also recently opted for a comedy approach partnering up with Saturday Night Live comedian Bill Hader on a similar, comedian versus marketing executive style series pushing product benefits without the hard sell.