Friday, December 11, 2015

If you design a billboard for Ford, will you also buy its cars?

A few years ago consumer generated ads were all the rage, with some companies running contests and even airing winners on the Super Bowl.  Then the fad died out, presumably because the effect on sales was negligible.  And quite honestly, none of the ads were as good as those done by professionals.  Gee what a surprise.

So when Ford announced their new "By Design" campaign, I couldn't help but wonder what they were thinking.  At least the student I knew who participated in Heinz's contest bought one bottle of ketchup.  What exactly does Ford expect to happen here?

Participants are asked to select a city and car to feature.  Once submitted, the billboard will be displayed along with the artist's name and hometown.  When the ad goes live, the creator gets their 8 second of fame, and a "selfie" of their work to send to all their friends and post on social media. (Greenberg, 2015)

So, I guess this is at heart a word-of-mouth campaign.  But will it work?  Would you create a billboard and send pics of it to your friends?  Do you know anyone who would?  Presumably the target is Millennials where the target for the previous self-made ads were Gen X.  Do you think this will impact the success or failure of the campaign?  How?

Greenberg, K. (2015, December 8)  Ford Lets Consumers Design Billboard Ads.  Retrieved December 11, 2015, from


  1. I feel that Ford thinks that its cars are actually better targeted towards Millennials. They hope that more Millennials will be attracted to the brand because they get to design an advertisement and in this way it will appear that Ford is transparent and that more consumers will find this appealing. They believe that Millennials like to take part in everything and be in the now and by allowing them to design an advertisement for the company and have their 8 seconds of fame, it will excite the Millennials and essentially attract them to buy a car from their brand. Since selfies are now a "thing" it makes it exciting to show off the fact that they get to take part in designing an advertisement for such a nice brand of cars. I don't think that this tactic will actually work. I wouldn't take the time to design an advertisement or send pictures of it to my friends. Maybe it's just because I'm not artistic, but it truly doesn't appeal to me as a Millennial. I think it might be an overall failure because it won't make people buy a car right after, they will more than likely just do it for their short time of fame, if any.

  2. I do believe that some potential consumers of Ford products still have an outdated perception of Ford’s car lineup and therefore this could pose as a great opportunity to increase awareness of the cars in the showroom today and really highlight the totality of Ford's lineup. Only time will tell how this “By Design” campaign fares, but making a dedicated effort to promote cars in the same unified manner as trucks could benefit Ford. Particularly since U.S. carmakers have long been criticized for focusing too much on big trucks and SUVs, while foreign brands continue to rule the car segments.

    While I personally would not be interested in creating a billboard and sending pics of it to my friends, I do know a large group of people who would be interested in doing so. In today's mobile and social media crazed climate, I do believe that targeting Millennials in this fashion could certainly fare well with this particular campaign. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

  3. This is a really interesting and risky tactic. I do not think it will work. That being said, the labor is free, so although it may not affect sales - it will certainly affect consumer morale, buzz and create a general feeling of "Ford: One of Us." I have noticed this trend of consumer responsibility - where suddenly we have to sing for our supper, so to speak, when we spend. With TOMs, we have to buy shoes to clothe the poor. With Starbucks, its a $4 cup of coffee to support local farmers. Why is it one or the other? In this instance, it seems like Ford is banking on consumer investment in the brand and morale turning into sales.

    -Gabi Wuhl

  4. This tactic by Ford might work for Millennials who may want to work in the creative discipline in advertising because it would be valuable for their portfolio. Also the exposure would be great for them and would help launch their career. But otherwise if the only reward is to share their work to friends on social media, I doubt that Millennials will jump at the chance to design a billboard. We all know that Millennials love to share and take selfies of themselves, but the trouble and hard work of designing a billboard versus the reward of just being able to share it with friends on social media is not sufficient. So basically Ford is getting a free ad rather than paying a professional agency to create it for them. Hmmm seem like a little one sided to me.
    With that being said, I would probably do it because I want to work for an ad agency and be part of the creative team. This would be beneficial for me as I stated earlier because it will help me and add to my creative portfolio and may help me launch my career.
    I think the success or failure of this campaign will depend on how many will participate. I guess time will only tell.

    Girlie E. Gaviola

  5. I personally would not create a billboard and send pics of it to my friends, but I do believe my brother as well as some of my friends would. I think it will work for Millennials as they like to post everything. I also think it will appeal to Millennials because they not only have the opportunity to create something but also get their 8 seconds of fame. I'm not quite sure if the strategy will work better this time, but I think they will get way more submissions than before.

  6. I really like the concept of this campaign- it allows consumers to learn and experience what the Ford brand is. Additionally, even if the participants engaging in the campaign's activities do not purchase a Ford, it promotes positive publicity and helps build a strong brand image.

    At the same time, I believe that participation in the contest doesn't necessarily imply that the participants even like the Ford brand. Many millennial might take this contest as an opportunity to express themselves, particularly artistically.

  7. I remember one of the commercials that were consumer designed; it was one of the more popular Super Bowl ads that year. It was the one with the dog "hit-man"; the owner of a cat is looking for the cat and comes upon a fresh mound of dirt. The dog then slides a bag of Doritos to the cat owner as a bribe to keep quiet. As a dog person I laughed so hard I was in tears; still didn't make me run out to the store to buy Doritos though.
    If I created a billboard, I probably would forward it to my friends. Why not? It's something that I created and it would be fun to show my friends; kind of like a "hey look what I did" moment. Now I would guess many Millenials would not have a problem doing this. I'm sure both my nephews, 19 & 16, would jump at the opportunity to do this; that's if they could be motivated to even try.
    Will it work? I'm not sure. I'm guessing that Ford is thinking that if the advertisement is designed by a non-professional then it would be more persuasive. Essentially using the liking principle.

    -George Tsevdos

  8. I do not think this idea can actually work for Millennials even if they want attentions and exposure from social media. First of all, I would not buy Ford's car if I designed a billboard for them because I care more about other qualities of a car. Also, if I designed a billboard for Ford, I would expect them to reward me with a car, instead of doing free social media advertising for them. I actually do not think this idea can work for any age group because this idea does not provide many incentives for people to do it. Well, some people might want to challenge designing a billboard, but I think most people would not want to do this work.

  9. This idea could definitely work, simply because people love getting a chance of 8 seconds of fame! I feel Millennial men would love this opportunity because it is a way to be recgonized. In a sense, Ford is using Cialdini's reciprocity rule because by gaining the consumer insight through their creation the company is then giving the participants "fame." Also like facebook and the generation of "liking", it is free labor to gain more exposure. While this may get more people to participate, I don't think this campaign will help with the sales of cars. Most people will create the board, share it with friends and be done. Perhaps Ford is trying to show they care about our insight but I think they may fail at this attempt of exposure in hopes of gaining car sales.

  10. I personally like things like this, when companies engage their customers. Although the main purpose with an ad is to make people buy your product, I still think this can be very effective when it comes to creating a buzz and more awareness of the brand. I agree with some other students in the class, that this will probably engage people and be a fun thing, but I am not sure it will increase sales...

  11. To me, this is another way of trying to make people feel more important than they really are and thinking that that will be enough to increase sales. Honestly, when will these companies realize that it’s not going to work? It’s also a little naïve to believe that Millennials are gullible enough to purchase a car because they get their egos stroked. There may even be some who will entertain Ford and participate, but will they really buy one?

    Why can’t we leave the ad campaign up to professionals? I think that’s one of the problems with our society – everyone wants to be an expert without putting in the work. No experience, talent or education, no problem! Become a singer, an actor, a fashion designer, create a skincare line, or a politician without putting in any work! Hell, why don’t we just hire people without medical degrees so they can try their shot at being a physician because they feel like it? I’m all about catering to the consumers, but this is taking it too far.

    Just like the previous self-made ads targeting Gen X, I think this will be a failure as well. It seems as though Ford is using one of Cialdini’s six principles of persuasion - “reciprocity.” Just because Ford is allowing their target customers to be involved in the campaign doesn’t mean the Millennials are going to buy.

  12. I agree with everyone - companies can create a buzz to have consumers talk about the product(s) and talk about the company. This allows for customer engagement. But I don't think that this could increase revenue for the company. Unless the campaign is outstanding and offers more than it does then the effect could increase sales. But if it the same campaign as the next company then I think that advertisers need to come up with a different campaign that could be better for the company.

    -Sweta P