Ford-Escape-BFord is getting into reality TV. Given what the automaker has been doing around vehicle launches and (especially) pre-launches, the upcoming TV-based platform for the 2013 Ford Escape is a natural extension of what it’s M.O.
Programs like “Fiesta Movement” focus on a younger demo by having social-savvy people in their 20’s and 30’s drive the vehicles around, doing various Ford-delineated tasks and generating buzz. But while the new “Escape Routes” does have a heavy digital and participatory element, it is also the first time the automaker is running it on prime time TV as a reality show.
Like last year’s “Focus Rally: America,” the program follows six teams of two people on a cross-country, multi-city “Amazing Race”-type format. And like last year, this one is also produced by reality auteur Elise Doganieri.
The new program, produced by Doganieri’s production house Profiles, airs Saturday nights starting March 31 on NBC and young-Latino network mun2. The episodes will also air on nbc.com and mun2.tv the day after the broadcast.
The show, to air for six consecutive episodes, will be hosted by reality TV show personality Rossi Morreale. The “Escape Routes” trip starts in Los Angeles before heading to 16 markets including New York, Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco and Las Vegas.
In each city, the teams will live together in a loft (which will make for its own frictions and drama) while competing against each other in daily challenges that use the vehicles. Viewers can interact with and compete alongside the six teams throughout their adventures at escaperoutes.com. Ford selected four teams to compete for the last spot in “Escape Routes.” Two models from New York, chosen via online voting, are the sixth team. Fans can talk to the cast, Ford, the producers and host on March 8 at 3:30 p.m. EST via a Google Hangout on gplus.to/fordmotorcompany.
Crystal Worthem, multicultural marketing manager at the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker, tells Marketing Daily that the show differs from most reality TV in that it doesn’t depict events that happened weeks or months ago, but are pretty much contemporaneous with the weekly broadcasts — so viewers can participate in what happens, change events, and follow the team in the digital space.
“There are a lot of cool, interactive twists,” she says. “People who get involved in reality shows have teams they like and those they don’t so they want to get involved. Unfortunately, most are shot so far in advance you don’t have an impact on the actions the teams take. But with this show you can get engaged with them and interact with them in real-time.”
Another digital element of the show has Internet personality, iJustine (ijustine.com), embedded with the “Escape Routes” teams where she will stream behind-the-scenes content. The winning team will receive the $100,000 grand prize plus two new Ford Escapes. Online participants can win trips, high-tech gadgets and a brand-new Escape.
Worthem says the fact that the show is advertiser-produced is not really an issue from the networks’ perspective.
“A lot of shows now have so heavy a reliance on brand participation beyond the 30-second spot, there’s actually a fine line between studio-produced and advertiser-produced.” She said using multiple Emmy-winning Profiles gave Ford clout in the space. “Doing this with producers who have made great content year over year makes it a much easier sell.”