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Ford Focus Spokespuppet Doug: Now With Inner Feelings

Posted by Dale Buss on April 1, 2011 04:00 PM

Leave it to Doug — the mouthy orange puppet birthed by Ford — to turn an April Fools’ joke to his advantage. But that’s exactly what the mascot for the 2012 Ford Focus is doing in one of three new videos that the brand has debuted this week.

“Friends like to play tricks” on this day, Doug says in a new webisode, then taunts viewers: “April Fools! You don’t have any friends.” Messages on the screen then quickly temper his remark. “Don’t listen to Doug. You have plenty of friends,” they say.

Then comes the real punchline: “Now become one of [Doug’s] friends” by friending him on his Facebook page.

As promised, Ford is evolving the Doug mascot character — while not exactly a sensitive, new age guy, he is less outrageous.

The other new videos are a “buddy film” (below) featuring Doug and his handler, John, and a spot (above) that seems loosely designed to highlight the Focus’s available leather seats. Doug has left a turkey-club sandwich on the front passenger’s side. “I’m trying to keep it warm in the heated seat,” the puppet says.

A few things are remarkable about the latest releases. First and most obvious is that, intentionally or not, they dial back the hilarity level of Doug’s initial videos. Second is that the new spots don’t tell viewers much about the car. But that's the whole point.

The “slice of life on the road video” (see below), said Ford digital marketing manager Jon Beebe, “has very little, if any, branding, and focuses more on [Doug and John’s] relationship development over time.”

The third thing is that none of the new spots includes women for Doug to drool over, a change from the character's randy (some might say chauvinistic) tendencies in his first batch of Paul Feig-directed video spots for the brand.

“Since the campaign is so new,” Beebe told brandchannel, “I think some people really latched onto Doug’s more controversial or sensational behaviors or words. What I hope people will realize, as Doug’s story unfolds, is that he is a living, breathing character.

“That said, Doug will remain true to himself. Women won’t be out of his radar, they just might not always be his focus.” (Focus. We get it!)

Yet, Beebe admitted, “We’ve paid attention to the feedback, and are certainly more sensitive to potential conflicts between Ford’s commitment to diversity and a respectful work environment.”

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