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May 11, 2001
Case Study

Ford Explorer Rich Media Ad Gets Half a Million Clicks by Dominating Yahoo!'s Home Page for 24 Hours

SUMMARY: On Friday May 4th, Ford ran a single-day-only, rich media, online advertising campaign so unusual that even jaded industry reporters got fired up about it. (In fact usually cynical Masha Geller at Media Post emailed all her subscribers saying, "You have to see this ad!").Now you can learn the details behind the campaign ... and exactly how well it did.
Automotive marketers are famous in the Internet marketing community for consistently pushing the edge of the envelope.

Honda Europe was producing groundbreaking viral campaigns over a year ago (see link to Case Study below.) Ford, Toyota, Nissan and Mercedes Benz have all tested rich media email campaigns using the MindArrow system. And, both Ford and Chrysler have won "best of" awards from consumers and ad agency execs at the site for their rich media ads.

Last Friday May 4th, Ford broke the mold again, with a rich media online advertising campaign so unusual that even jaded industry reporters got fired up about it. (In fact usually cynical Masha Geller at Media Post emailed all her subscribers saying, "You have to see this ad!")

So, we contacted the folks at Ford to get the story behind the campaign for you....


As Ford Explorer Marketing Manager Ed Molchany says, "After selling more than 3.5 million Explorers, we feel we know a lot about our customers." He defined them as 'Experience Collectors' who are very active participants in life.

His challenge was to find a way to reach this psychographic slice of automotive buyers in a way that would appeal to them online. Molchany says, "We wanted to do something that was a real breakthrough."


First Ford picked a media buy that guaranteed substantial attention -- a single day's ownership of the Yahoo! home page that would reach tens of millions of viewers.

Next the folks at Ford spent about two months brainstorming with Yahoo! and agency, J. Walter Thompson, Detroit to figure out the best way to make a strong brand impression on these millions of viewers.

Interestingly enough, the final winning idea was inspired by one of Ford's most creative offline campaigns. Ford already has real-life 'Bird-Boards' traveling around America. These two-sided trailers are filled with birdseed, and rely on hungry birds to reveal the ad for the 2002 Explorer.

Ford's final creative (which took about three weeks to execute) appeared as a horizontal banner on Yahoo!'s home page. When viewers first saw it, the banner looked kind of ordinary ... except for the little birds perched on top. Next, the birds came alive on viewers' computer screens, flying down across the page to peck at some bird seed. The effect is charming and can't help catch one's eye. Viewers who clicked on the banner suddenly heard a noisy engine revving and pow! a red Ford Explorer smashed through the page right at them. The page still appeared to be Yahoo!'s home page, just with an almost 3D image of an Explorer parked in the middle of it.

Viewers who clicked on the Explorer itself, were then taken off Yahoo to Ford's Outfitter Web site which included a brand new interactive game, the 'Extreme 18 Golf Sweepstakes.'


The original banner on Yahoo!s home page got about a 1.28% click rate, and a stunning 50% of these then clicked again on the image of red Explorer to go to Ford's site!

The Yahoo! home page for Friday, May 4 had almost 39,000,000 impressions. Nearly 500,000 users actually clicked on the "bird-seed" banner to activate the Explorer drive-up and almost 250,000 users actually logged into the Ford Outfitters website via the "bird-board" ad. On average, that's 185 visitors per minute sent to for 24 hours.

Plus, as Molchany notes, "We provided a feedback option on Yahoo! and received scores of positive comments on the ad as well as very favorable impressions of Ford and Yahoo! as a result of the ad. People thought this ad was creative, entertaining, and fun. And it convinced many of them to take a closer look at the new Explorer."

If it was so successful, why not run it for more than one day? Molchany said, "This type of execution can be viewed as intrusive if overdone. People use the web as an information source, and don't want to be bothered with repetitive advertising."

NOTE: When we asked Molchany's advice for other marketers considering campaigns of this nature, he said, "Some viewers that wrote to us to comment on the ad said that this type of thing was very cool, but felt it might not work for everyone. Because of the familiarity of Ford and the Explorer, this worked really well for us, but it might not be as effective for others. The other thing is that now that this has been done, being the second to do it won't be as impactful."

Useful links related to this article:

Honda Europe viral campaign Case Study from last year:

Advertain "Ads that don't suck" site:


Ford Outfitters:
See Also:

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