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Inside Ford’s first ever virtual car launch

09 June 2023

This article first appeared in The Drum written by, Simon Levitt, Global Creative Technology Director.

There has been a big shift in automotive marketing departments from communications first to brand experience first. As such, marketers at the brands are asking the agency to think about how events and experiences can support the global strategy, rather than straight comms.

This is where Ford in Europe found itself when it needed to create an experience-led campaign that could work both on and offline for its new all-electric Explorer™ SUV.

Ford wanted to give journalists and potential customers a way to experience the car and test drive it in the time between the reveal and Ford’s new all-electric Explorer™ SUV hitting the dealerships – which can often be over a year. We worked with Ford to find a solution using a blend of offline and online experience marketing.

Our Global Creative Technology Director, Simon Levitt, who helped lead the project explains how we created three virtual worlds where audiences can ‘test drive’ the vehicle. Consumers were able to explore at home, on their mobile home or on computers and make use of the latest in video game software, Unreal Engine. This meant that users didn’t need to download anything, the experience can be pixel streamed to a device in real time. The technology allows users to interact with AAA video game graphics through their browser.

While the initial reveal drove audience and media awareness, the virtual test drive delivered higher results of consideration by immersing them in the car and giving audiences more time to discover the car’s features.

Lessons from video game measurement

You can’t only measure these kinds of online experience through reach. While organic reach is a factor, you also need to take into consideration the amount of time a user is spending with the brand or product and how they are actively interacting with it.

Online experiences should take the lead from the video game industry and measure engagement by depth. This includes measuring minutes engaged, time spent experiencing the product and the time the audience has spent actively engaging with the product. By measuring engagement in this way, brands can see how valuable the depth of an experience is and how much active engagement they are receiving.

What do marketers need to know when measuring virtual experiences?

Marketers can take three steps to measure the power of experience. That’s reach, depth and behaviour.

Measuring reach

Measuring reach is critical at the top of a sales funnel, so there is awareness and with the right experience organic reach and brand advocacy.

Measuring depth

Measuring depth will help a brand drive long term value of its product and will validate an experience's impact amongst attendees. By creating a standard metric of engaged minutes, marketers can compare time spent with the brand across any marketing activity, whether this is online, in real life or both.

While the depth of engagement offered by experiences is a key driver of long-term brand value, experiences can be equally as effective in driving short-term conversions. By measuring the behaviour, brands can focus on the customer activities that are most important to them, which might include leads generated, products selected and preferred product colours or service options.

Measuring behaviour

What is critical to understand when designing an experience is the outcome, what is your goal in moving customer behaviour? The creative execution should reflect this. It’s not only about having a creative that people engage with but about how this moves your potential customers, so it not only has value for them but for the brand. This will then give your experience outcome-led creative work with measurable ROI.

Click here to learn more about our Digital-first virtual launch for Ford’s new All-Electric Explorer.