Where is the next technology platform? Ford recognized that it’s THE CAR, as consumers seek to stay more connected and increasingly consider technology when making car buying decisions. To establish Ford as a leader in in-car technology, WPP was asked to work with Ford Communications to stage a major technology introduction at International CES 2010, the largest consumer electronics show in the world with 2,500 exhibitors and 120,000 attendees. MyFord Touch, a smarter, safer, simpler technology interface that would be available in 2011 vehicles, would be unveiled during Ford’s keynote at the show.

MyFord Touch would use in-car technologies to connect drivers with their digital lives – but do it in a safe, hands-free manner via voice-controlled responses. But Ford faced major challenges: to make Ford relevant at a show where technology juggernauts Intel, Microsoft, Sony are stalwarts, and at a time when Apple was about to announce iPad at MacWorld; set Ford apart from competitors; battle concerns over distracted driving; and introduce Ford to reporters, analysts, bloggers and influencers who cover technology companies – not auto manufacturers – to help influence buying decisions.

• Engage and influence an entirely new set of non-automotive reporters, bloggers, editors, producers, analysts and thought leaders by introducing them to Ford technology and MyFord Touch;
• Make national headlines at CES driving Ford’s corporate reputation, putting Ford and Ford innovation into consumer electronics conversations;
• Use CES as a launch pad to create a long-term ripple effect that would establish Ford innovation as a differentiator for consumers and create a competitive advantage in the marketplace throughout 2010.

Sixty-two percent of consumers ages 18-44 own smart phones. This same age group is responsible for 44 percent of all new US car purchases, making this young, technology-focused group of potential car buyers a key Ford audience. With MyFord Touch, Ford would appeal to this audience’s desire to stay connected with their personal mobile devices safely.

To connect with these consumers, Ford needed to reach those who influence and inform them: consumer electronic and other media, broadcasters, bloggers, and analysts whose opinions around consumer electronics and CES carry weight with Ford’s target audience. WPP created two targeted lists of influencers, those who would be attending CES and those across the US and Canada who would not attend, but would still cover CES news. The role of WPP was to reach out to all of these target audiences through both traditional (phone calls, e-mails, mailings, fax) and non-traditional (Facebook, Twitter, blogger engagement) PR tactics.

The WPP team was given just 70 days to complete this project, an incredibly limited timeframe.

WPP interviewed key analysts covering mobile technology in order to make recommendations about CES 2010. WPP audited media, analyst and influencer coverage of Ford technology around CES 2009, the first year of a Ford keynote address; Ford was not a major factor in coverage. Core technology publications that wrapped up ‘The Best of CES’ did not include Ford.

An audit of recent technology coverage was also conducted; Ford was not in stories about consumer electronics innovation.

WPP next broke down the CES attendee list to identify the most influential targets and researched all of the top sites that would cover technology/consumer electronics news.

Because there are 2,500+ companies exhibiting at CES, our research led us to recommend pre-briefing select reporters to emphasize the revolutionary nature of MyFord Touch. Working with Ford, WPP created messaging, talking points and pitches to introduce Ford to a new slate of influencers. WPP identified executives who would be on-site to do briefings, dinners, and influencer activities – including CEO Alan Mulally. Charts and speaking grids were developed. For influential reporters who could not be at CES, phone pre-briefs would be conducted.

Ultimately, the campaign would be judged on whether Ford’s involvement at CES pushed Ford into the conversation with other technology juggernauts, breaking into new categories, and pushing Ford beyond the traditional automotive space. To accomplish such a significant goal, WPP outlined an aggressive strategy:

• Establish and build relationships with technology influencers at CES;
• Maximize the Ford keynote address to raise visibility and link Ford to the consumer electronics market;
• Make the most of in-person opportunities with influencers attending CES by inviting them to experience Ford technology first-hand and to speak with top-level executives.

• Held embargoed press briefings with key national reporters to ensure maximum coverage of the MyFord Touch launch on January 7.
• Organized a meet-and-greet dinner with Ford executives and 20 reporters and analysts at a private restaurant on January 6 to preview the Ford keynote. Outlets such as Oprah Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Details Magazine all attended.
• Held a blogger luncheon and private reception for influential bloggers such as ZDNet.com and Gizmodo.com, TechZulu.com and Pop17.com, with Ford CEO Alan Mulally and key Ford executives at the Ford CES booth on January 6 – knowing the significant impact that online media has on the 18-44 age group, who spend approximately 40 hours a week online.
• Scheduled one-on-one press, analyst and influencer interviews with hands-on demonstrations of the MyFord Touch technology.
• Used a media alert, Tweets and Facebook postings to flag Ford keynote date and time on Jan. 7 for all reporters, analysts and influencers and ensure full capacity attendance and coverage.
• Encouraged drumbeat of press coverage during CES by lining up interviews throughout four days of the show following the keynote address.

• Engaged an entirely new set of non-automotive reporters, bloggers, analysts and influencers:
o 100+ in-person press and analyst interviews, demos on site at CES
o 20+ influential reporters at a private dinner with Ford executives
• Inserted Ford innovation into consumer electronics conversations:
o 270+ original pieces of print and online press coverage in major business, technology, consumer press worldwide
o 50+ stories/posts to business, technology, consumer blogs
o 12 million+ Twitter impressions
o 25+ broadcast, online press, radio interviews and blog broadcast videos from the show floor
o 19 million+ TV viewers saw Ford’s news
• Won several coveted consumer electronic awards
o CNET “Best of CES” award
o Popular Mechanics’ Editor’s Choice award for Best New Product at CES
• Used CES presence to ensure a ripple effect establishing Ford innovation as a differentiator for influencers and consumers:
o Ford was an invited speaker at the inaugural invite-only Techonomy Conference
o Ford had a main stage speaking opportunity at GigaOM Mobilize
o Ford keynoted at the main stage at CTIA 2010, the nation’s largest wireless/mobile conference
o Ford was invited back to CES and will keynote the 2011 show, an event where normally more than 200 companies apply to keynote and approximately six are selected