The live-streamed rollout: we've seen it in other industries -- in fashion, for example -- and it's even happened a few times in the auto world, when an automaker has posted live video of a model's debut on the auto show floor. Now, Ford has decided to skip the auto show altogether and premiere the 2011 Explorer on Facebook.
In many ways, the move makes great sense. The Explorer is, after all, an SUV for the masses, so why not take it straight to its target market? It's a little like bringing the mountain to Mohamed, if Mohamed had 400 million profiles and 260 billion page views per month. Compare the potential impact of launching on Facebook versus debuting for several thousand auto journalists, and you can clearly see Ford's motivation.
Many of our colleagues in the media probably will be critical or upset or worried about this development. Normally, we'd get to see the Explorer first, give it the once-over, kick the tires, and post our thoughts about it to the web, newspaper, TV, and/or radio. By going straight to Facebook, however, Ford has essentially cut out middleman (i.e. us) -- and that's totally 100% a-okay.
Heck, you're the consumer, you're going to be buying it, so why shouldn't you get to see it at the same time as everyone else? We're still going to be reviewing it, test-driving it, commenting on it, and you're still going to be looking to critics for research and information, so the question of who sees it first isn't much of an issue. True, we're a little peeved that we'll have to "like" the damn thing before we can comment on it -- it seems a little presumptuous, no? -- but we suppose there's no getting past Facebook's increasingly bizarre user interface. Besides, if the Explorer turns out to be a flaming piece of crap, we can always "unlike". (Zuckerberg: if you're reading, please create something stronger than "unlike" soon -- just so we have options.)
There's another reason to like the Explorer's online launch: it builds enthusiasm for Ford in particular and the auto industry in general. The excitement that bubbles around events like this helps generate buzz, and given the fact that millennials seem far less interested in cars than their parents and grandparents, anything Ford can do to create hype (and future gearheads) is a good thing for automakers, consumers, and the media.
Not only that, but moving to an online format is simply the smart way to go -- and likely the way of the future. Auto shows are expensive and time-consuming to produce, and as online media delivery becomes faster, more efficient, and more informative, we're going to see this sort of debut far more often. It's smarter, faster, cheaper, and the web is where people go for info and interaction anyway. It only makes sense.
Facebook page for the Honda Accord Crosstour