It was only last week that we asked, "Has Ford's Focus Spokespuppet Doug Jumped the Shark?" Turns out, he has jumped ship entirely.
Ford has decided to shelve Doug, the orange spokespuppet for the Focus, after a six-month run that did wonders for consumer interest in the car, exceeding the company's initial expectations.
Brandchannel has learned that the denouement of Doug's story will be told on Thursday with the release of the last new video in a series of many.
Ford released the penultimate chapter today, a Doug-less video that featured only "John," the human handler for the smart-alecky mascot, bemoaning the departure of his friend after Doug drove off himself in a 2012 Focus.
"The video today tipped it off," Scott Monty, Ford's head of social media, told brandchannel. "Tomorrow we'll have the concluding video."
Doug is being retired from active duty as a branded entertainment experiment for the brand, after a phenomenal run of webisodes. Ford targeted the generation of 10,000 Facebook fans for Doug; he now has 43,000. According to Monty, people have engaged with Doug on Facebook at a rate three times greater than for the vehicle itself. About 40 percent of online "conversation" about Focus has been about Doug.
And yet, as disappointed as Doug might be at being put back on the shelf, the campaign hasn't all been about "Doug," as much as his obnoxious persona would have it.
Talk about a Focus group — Monty tells us that 77 percent of people who saw the 48 Focus Doug videos to date said their favorability toward Focus has risen, and Doug's adventures have prompted a 61 percent increase in Focus consideration.
"We've even had a handful of people say that they bought a Focus just because of Doug," Monty said.
Ford is retiring Doug, Monty added, "because you have to know when to walk away" and "we wanted to go out on a high note with Doug." Plus, the Los Angeles production company and talent behind Doug must get on with their lives after a six-month contract.
As we noted back in March when the campaign launched, the Doug webisodes were helmed by director Paul Feig (known for The Office, Parks and Recreation, Weeds, 30 Rock and Arrested Development) and a team of writers whose credits include The Simpsons, Borat, Reno 911 and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
It's been a great run for John Ross Bowie, who has appeared on Reno 911 and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and played "John, the Ford Guy" in the webisodes, and Paul F. Tompkins, who appeared in Anchorman: The Legend of Run Burgundy before becoming the voice of Doug.
But do not weep for the Annoying Orange Guy. He will live on in Ford's cache of online content and YouTube and (perhaps) some paid media. And there's always next year's Advertising Week ad icon contest.
"Our plan all along was that this would be a limited campaign," Monty said. "The story had an arc, and we've hit on all the things we wanted to hit on."
Updated: Here's the final "Focus Doug" spot, and below that, a look back at his introduction as the Ford Focus 2012 mascot: