Earlier this year, Ford Motor Company announced a social media experiment which drew over 4,000 applications. At the end of April 2009, 4,000 were narrowed down to the one hundred who would represent what was called the Fiesta Movement. These hundred people were given the title of Agents in this movement, and, with that title, obtained a brand new Ford Fiesta well in advance of its 2010 US launch. Over the ensuing six months Agents received free gas and insurance in return for sharing their experience in the car with their social networks. Today, we’re featuring an interview with Agent 96, Dylan Klymenko.
Q: What made you want to join the Ford Fiesta movement?
Honestly? It was the thought of having a car again. While I was in college my younger brother totaled my car once he reached driving age. Granted, the auto was a year younger than me, so we got some good miles out of it. Still, when I returned back home after graduating, that left me with nothing but a few area friends to rely on for my transportation. My life almost had to be planned around their schedule, otherwise I would have been a burden. In a way, I viewed the movement as a chance to regain my independence in a big way, and, from what I heard, have fun while doing it.
Q: How hard was it to become one of the 100 participants?
This might be a question best fielded by Action Marketing Group since they coordinated the whole thing, but I can give you my side of it. Pretty hard. There were over 4,000 people that applied for this contest. To be chosen as one of the hundred from the selection process that followed is a miracle–I usually have problems when my odds are fifty-fifty!
Q: What specifically did you have to do to get in?
The first requirement was to create a 2-5 minute video explaining why you deserve the Ford Fiesta. Seeing as I didn’t have a car anymore, I decided to play off that idea in a fun way. I grabbed two of my friends for it and we shot it all in one afternoon. When I sent the video I also included a form I had to fill with general information including interests and involvement with social media. The second phase was a phone interview and an incredibly rigorous background check. Thankfully, I wasn’t the one who totaled my old car. They wanted someone with a record as clean as untracked snow. This seemed extreme at first, but I immediately recognized the logistics they were dealing with. I mean, they’re planning to give out a car–it made perfect sense.
Q: Did that exercise alone make a good impression on you?
When it came to the video entry all I could think was, “Man, that was a lot of fun.” Even if it never worked out, I would’ve been happy that I gathered my friends, made a video, and had a blast while doing it. As a student of marketing and advertising, I was also impressed with how things were handled in the initial stages; their questions were poignant and they knew they were seeking people with a balance of personality and, what I guess could be called online credibility.
Q: You had assignments each month? What did you get out of them?
The assignments were great! They were called Monthly Missions. There were six in all and each month had it’s own unique theme (Travel, Technology, Style/Design, Social Activism, Adventure, and Entertainment). The system worked in a way that provided a huge list of suggested missions given the theme of that month. This list was compiled by Mission Control (MC) and each of the 100 agents was assigned a direct contact at MC. Of course, these missions were first come, first served. So you always tried to finish your last mission soon enough to have first grabs at the next month.
This experience was made a million times richer by the missions. They forced you to reconsider the area around you and involve yourself in activities you’ve never done before. I took my first road trip to Philly, eating as many cheesesteaks as my friends and I could stand. I investigated speakeasy bars in NYC–something I never would have considered before the fiestamovement. I got involved with a children’s organization called AmericaSCORES and was able to help tell their story to potential donors. And, all things being cyclical, I returned to Philly for my last mission, attending Game Four of the playoffs with the Dodgers. In case you missed it, this game was incredibly dramatic. It felt like a movie, which worked for me since I usually root for the best story rather than any specific team.
Not to mention, I learned how to drive stick.
Q: How important was the community? Did you have contact and interaction with each other? Did that shape your opinion of the program?
Definitely. Some agents more than others, but overall there was a community factor. It can’t be helped when you’re one of 100, you’re like an endangered species–you look out for each other, listen to what you’re all doing. It was so cool to play part in this community since it was filled with diverse people all over the country. One of the agents was a host for a show I used to watch on G4TV. It still baffles me that this program connected so many of us.
Q: Prior to the experience, what was your opinion about Ford and its cars?
I wasn’t what you’d call a Ford enthusiast, but I wasn’t a hater either. I felt sort of blah about them and most car companies. To tell the truth, I never felt like any car company prior to this identified with me. Sure, some of the companies had cool commercials that I enjoyed, but their cars were way out of my price range given my situation or just didn’t feel very me. I know that’s weird to say, but it’s true.
Q: Did the experience change your perception about the Ford brand or the company?
Though I was blah before the experience, I was not blah about the Fiesta. It actually looked pretty sexy and this experience brought all the pieces together. Now I feel more positive about Ford as a company and the car itself. In my eyes, this helped set them apart from the phrase “Big 3.”
Q: If you were brand manager, would you attempt to replicate this program?
Yes, but a carbon copy cannot expect the same press impact. This was the first program of its kind for a car company. That alone aided in the buzz it received. However, this contest has the ability to be repeated in the same way Doritos has done with its SuperBowl contest: by upping the ante. The importance is to keep it fresh and fun with every reincarnation. After all, what better way to excite and influence a specific market than to let them experience your product and share that experience with others?
Q: Any advice for Ford as to how to make a better car?
Every month we gave them feedback. I was very candid regarding things I found lovable and loathsome with the vehicle. Overall, it’s a solid product and most of my dislikes were minor. For example, at night when you open the back door, there’s no light to illuminate the interior, so you can’t see a thing. Another minor gripe I had was with the power window’s one-click function (this allows you one press for it to roll all the way down or up). I felt this function should apply for all windows, not just the driver’s.
Of course, I also recommend they remember to innovate. The cannot rest on the laurels of their current WOW factors: Door lock key-sensor, voice-controlled climate/radio/phone, push button start; they’re all cool, but overtime we’ll come to expect them as standard and we’ll be looking for something new.
Q: What was it like to have to give the car back?
Sad. My whole summer was in that car. And, I didn’t cry…it’s just, something got caught in my eye–both of them–at the same time.
Q: What kind of car are you driving now?
I wouldn’t call it a “car” as much as, “my left and right leg.” Now I’ll be walking a lot more, using the train, and relying on friends again. I might consider leasing something, but I’m not exactly a wealthy man at the moment.