Looks like FoMoCo wants to make a "Bold Move" in the blogosphere so badly it's decided to buy its way in. The Dearborn, MI-based automaker recently made a purchase of ad space on 400 blogs running BlogAds ad boxes. The ads are appearing on urban-hipster sites like Gothamist, as well as environmental-themed sites like Treehugger (full disclosure: one of us received an ad on his not-so-well maintained personal site). The text of the ads can be seen in the graphic to the left, and although it doesn't vary much on the theme Ford's been using on its banner ads running elsewhere on the web, the interesting part is the "excitement" of the folks at the BlogAds network over the ads. In fact, the owner was so excited, he sent an e-mail out to all 400 webmasters receiving the ad...
...to let owners know how much BlogAds loves the idea. Specifically, Henry Copeland from BlogAds is all geeked up on how much the ad is a "Cluetrain ad," a reference to the 1999 Cluetrain Manifesto, a Doc Searls-created grouping of theses and musings on how the interwebs were gonna change the world. That's not only strange, it's unprecedented (we can't remember in the past ever receiving an e-mail from the BlogAds folks about an ad). Here's the text of the e-mail sent out by BlogAds:
From: henry copeland To: XXX@blogads.com Date: Aug 8, 2006 5:57 PM Subject: Ford's Cluetrain ad
You probably noticed a blogad titled "THE FUTURE OF FUEL, THE FUTURE OF FORD" in your inbox today.
In my view, it's the most exciting ad to cross Blogads' servers in our four years of business.
The ad promotes a film in Ford's BoldMoves weekly documentary series. Click and you'll hear people saying "Ford has the worst fuel efficiency of any automaker in America... years and years of mistakes... these guys don't have much time."
This is an ad? Yes. The first Cluetrain ad.
Back in 1999 the Cluetrain Manifesto predicted that people-powered-publishing would spark a commercial revolution. Magnified by cheap web sites and hyperlinks, passionate individual human voices would drown out bland corporate-speak.
As Cluetrain put it, "most corporations... only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do. But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about 'listening to customers.' They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf."
But since 1999 we've heard very few real human beings speaking on behalf of corporations. Though it's clear that web-powered human voices ARE winning, most corporations remain Cluetrain victims rather than victors.
Now, down a few billion bucks and peddling gas-guzzlers, Ford has drunk the Cluetrain cool-aid. Eschewing the "same old tone, same old lies" and the "soothing humorless monotone," this Ford ad celebrates the brutally honest conversations that are essential to its revival. And Ford's BoldMoves project finds an ideal counterpart in the blogosphere, the great American brainstorm.
So, enjoy your latest blogad, the first Cluetrain ad. I hope the American industry is lucky enough to create more like it.
This is all interesting...and yes, the Bold Moves videos are all about saying stuff other companies aren't saying — but we kinda thought the Cluetrain Manifesto was all about having "real conversations" between businesses and consumers. We're not entirely sure it means buying your way onto the page the conversations are occurring.
But we feel for FoMoCo, we remember joining a fraternity in college and thinking "are we buying our friends?" We weren't sure then, and we sure as hell aren't sure now. But it certainly is a new, if not "Bold" move for FoMoCo.
The Cluetrain Manifesto [Wikipedia]
Ford's B.M. — Episode VI: FoMoCo PR's Got The Biggest Balls Of Them All [internal]