So you think that Doug, Ford’s orange puppet, is an irredeemably chauvinistic piece of felt who can only get laughs in the brand’s social-media campaign by offending female sensibilities?
Guess again. Doug – the just-introduced online-video “spokesman” for Ford’s new 2012 Focus – will evolve. Ford digital marketing manager Jon Beebe tells brandchannel that Ford anticipated criticism of the rakish personality of its new puppet, which some would say borders on misogyny.
Among other things, in the various videos Ford has released so far, Doug hits on a female reporter at a press conference (above), calling her “Pretty Pants,” and quipping suggestively to a “Ford marketing rep.” Doug isn't the only puppet mascot to border on the offensive; witness Air Zealand's Rico character, in one recent example.
“We needed to be witty and break through,” said Beebe. “We want to make sure [Doug] is not offensive with what he says. But he doesn’t represent Ford at all; he’s a puppet. Anybody who is represented as a Ford person in this story isn’t tolerating his behavior. It’s fairly obvious that we don’t condone it.
“We understand those concerns and they’re valid. People will see that he’s a bit more well-rounded in upcoming videos. But what we see so far in social spaces is that people are responding really well to Doug.”
Overall, Beebe said, the campaign's director (Paul Feig, of The Office fame) “really understood what we were trying to do. We didn’t want the Geico gekko – we wanted [Doug] to be as authentic as The Office, but a puppet.” More authenticity will come as Ford fills out Doug’s back story in some surprising ways, hinted Beebe.
The automaker got help putting together the character from The Character Shop, the famous Hollywood outfitter of animatronic and puppet characters for movies and commercials.
But don’t necessarily expect Ford to roll out Doug t-shirts, dolls and bumper stickers to spread the Focus message, just as Chrysler is doing with its "Imported from Detroit" campaign.
“We’d interview people on the beach about Doug and they kept asking for stuffed Dougs,” Beebe said. “But we would lose a bit of the authenticity of the campaign if Doug becomes a Happy Meal toy. We’re still keeping an open mind about merchandising."