Ford recruits online social networkers to get word out about new car

Jeni Searcy is Fort Worth’s very own not-so-secret agent for Ford Motor Co.

Searcy, 21, is one of 100 wired networkers around the nation that Ford is counting on to spread the word about a new car the company is aiming directly at Generation Y, also known as Millennials.

In 2010, Ford plans to introduce to the U.S. market its new Fiesta subcompact, a car it hopes will be a big hit with young people like Searcy. That is to say, folks more interested in gigabytes than horsepower.

In mid-May, Ford delivered 100 European-built Fiestas to young people across the country, including Searcy and two others in Texas. The “Fiesta Movement agents” were chosen from among thousands of candidates who submitted videos explaining why they should be selected.

Searcy, a full-time barista at a local Starbucks and student at Tarrant County College, figured she didn’t have much of a chance but took a shot — and won. In her entry, which can be seen on YouTube at tinyurl.com/mr4ano, she made the case for being “the perfect Fiesta Movement agent.”

“Why?” she asks on the video. “Because I live my life online.”

Searcy has a desktop and laptop computer in her room at home, running a webcam and networking servers. She carries not just the ubiquitous iPod, cellphone and digital camera, but also, thanks to Ford, a Kindle and a video camera.

Now Searcy is using all those channels to tell the world about the Fiesta. So far, her reviews of the car are favorable.


I love all the features in it. Me being as technological as I am, it really meets my needs,” Searcy said. The Fiestas are equipped with Ford’s Sync, a voice-activated entertainment/telephone system, and USB ports for plugging in digital devices. She also likes the 32 mpg it gets in everyday driving around the Fort Worth area.

Searcy has her iPod and cellphone connected. More than a few of her fellow Fiesta bloggers have hooked up video cameras to broadcast their activities.

From Ford’s view, Searcy is part of a generation worth reaching.

“The Millennials are an emerging market force, with 11,000 reaching driving age every day,” Sam De La Garza, Ford’s small-car marketing manager, said in a statement. “It’s the most important demographic trend since the baby boomers, and it represents one of the greatest opportunities for Ford.”

The automaker is betting that it can influence “a group that hasn’t yet established brand loyalty and is very connected to the use of technology and social networking.”

The Fiesta is already a big hit in Europe, where high gas prices have long made small cars top sellers. But in the U.S., where trucks and big cars are king, younger drivers lean heavily toward smaller imports like the Honda Fit and Scion.

The Fiesta Movement agents are given assignments that are designed to attract audiences and show off the vehicle. The agents then blog, make videos and otherwise spread their views of the Fiesta. Searcy’s next assignment, for example, is to invite 50 people to meet her at an area Ikea store.

She says the Fiesta is “becoming a real big hit” in her circle. “People are starting to realize there are more than big trucks.”

Even her friends who are truck-loving Texans “ride in the [Fiesta] and like it,” she said. “It’s kind of sad I’ll have to give it back.”




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