Ford Goes Interactive With Spots

Wink Communications provides real-time play-by-plays

The Ford Motor Co. underwrote a major expansion of the interactive-TV component of ABC's Bowl Championship Series
Jan. 1 to Jan. 3. For the first time, Ford sponsored the entire interactive portion of the four-game series that decides the national college football champion for the 2002 season. The deal (valued in the low seven figures) was part of multi-platform package that included multiple commercials in the coverage of the games.

The interactive component featured, for the first time, real-time play-by-play updates on the games from Wink Communications, the interactive subsidiary of OpenTV.

The Wink content allowed viewers to scroll through team and player statistics, access other Bowl game scores and download more information about the eight competing teams.

ABC's bowl action started Jan. 1 and culminated Jan. 3, with the championship game between the University of Miami and Ohio State University in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

Wink also provided interactive pieces for Ford ads in the broadcast that enabled users to get more information on Ford cars and trucks.

ABC and co-owned Disney Internet Group's Enhanced TV division (ETV) created an online contest that also served as a viewer-retention survey for Ford. The contest, promoted heavily on the air in both spots and by game announcers, directed viewers to to predict game plays, answer trivia questions and to test their recall about the content of Ford's on-air spots. At stake for those participating: a trip to next year's championship game.

"Once we get them in the door, it's up to us to keep the content fresh and relative to the game and we keep them as long as we can," an ABC official said.

As part of its sponsorship package, each bowl game included a "Built Ford Tough Play of the Game." It's a very manly and integrated strategy linking the tough sport of football with Ford trucks' being rugged and, well, tough (you get it).

ABC officials said it was hard to predict how many users would tap into the contest or the Wink content. But a spokesman estimated Enhanced TV contests used in Monday Night Football
games typically draw 75,000- 100,000 users. On New Year's Day prime time, the tail end of the Rose Bowl
and the Sugar Bowl
on ABC combined did an average 9.5 household rating and 15 share in the overnight markets, not far off Monday Night Football's typical performance.

Wink has access to about 6 million TV households nationwide. "It's a multi-platform, multiple touch point campaign," said one executive familiar with Ford's marketing strategy. "They're doing a ton of traditional media. But the game drives the interactive component along with the Wink ads, giving them additional extensions. The goal is to drive brand retention by getting people to interact with it."