Screencap from Ford and USA Network's 'White Collar' game
In the marketing world, product placement is tricky business. Sometimes it works very well, as in the case of General Motors' alliance with the (terrible) Transformers sequel. Other times, not so much.
Ford's latest adventure in product placement centers on the USA Network series White Collar and makes use of the 2010 Ford Taurus. The show is a crime comedy-drama about two FBI agents (well, one FBI agent and one ex-con) who spend a fair amount of time motoring around New York in their Ford Taurus and making use of its Sync telematics system. That alone would be a great example of product placement in action, but Ford and USA haven't stopped there: they've also created a fairly sophisticated online game called "Chasing the Shadow", which plays like an episode of the TV show.
As you'd expect, the game gives a lot of screen time to the Taurus and its Sync system. In fact, the Sync interface may be the most important element of the game, since players spend a good deal of time using it to make and receive phone calls, text messages, and so on. (Newbies can opt to run through a "basic training" course and familiarize themselves with gameplay.)
Jeff Eggen, who holds the title of "experiential marketing manager" at Ford, tells Marketing Daily that he expects most of the game's players to be fans of the show -- which is itself geared to the Ford Taurus' target demographic: "It is right in alignment with Taurus. What USA is doing here is driving an audience for the show to this deeper experience, so we aren't expecting a whole different group of people, but a subset of the demographic watching the show." In other words, Ford identified a show that speaks to a particular target market, matched a vehicle to that market, then created added value -- in this case, a game -- that also speaks to that demographic in terms of both form and content. Well played.
The game is new, so it's too early to gauge its effectiveness, however, to Ford's credit, the company seems to have very modest expectations. Moreover, the campaign feels well thought-out, and the game itself is fairly amazing for an online endeavor; even with its clunky download times, "Chasing the Shadow" is easily as rich and immersive as some console games we've played. Like the rest of Ford's marketing endeavors these days, Eggen seems to be right on the mark.