LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 29: General Atmosphere of the Lincoln MKZ on Display At the Los Angeles Auto Show at Los Angeles Convention Center on November 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Todd Oren/Getty Images for Lincoln)
Imagine spending nearly $8 million to air a one-minute Super Bowl commercial, then using those 60 precious seconds to broadcast five dramatized tweets from real people.
That's what Lincoln will do on Super Bowl Sunday, when new media, in the form of Twitter, briefly takes over old media.
In the luxury car brand's first-ever Super Bowl spot, the five crowd-sourced tweets - garnered by social media-savvy comedian Jimmy Fallon - will showcase ultra-wacky road-trip experiences. For the Lincoln division of Ford Motor, it's a high-stakes effort to redo its image and appeal to a new generation of buyers.
"We have to pull out all the stops to get noticed and get Lincoln back on folks' radar," says Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln marketing.
For Lincoln, which is desperately trying to reinvent itself and appeal to younger drivers with new products, it's all about using a Super Bowl social media platform to do it. As a luxury brand, Lincoln is a shell of its former self. In 1999, it ranked as one of the best-selling luxury car brands in the U.S., but has fallen far over the past decade.
The big question: Will a social media-inspired ad that airs on one of the world's most watched sporting events help change that?
Experts - who have not seen the spot, which will be filmed later this week on the West Coast - have mixed opinions.
Weaving social media into the spot is smart, "but people have to want to watch it," says brand guru Steven Addis. The tweets, he says, "had better be pretty special."
But "philosophically changing the paradigm to involve passionate customers in their marketing" may be a savvy move by Lincoln, says social media consultant Daina Middleton.
The five tweets were selected from among some 6,117 solicited by Fallon, who asked folks to send him tweets about their craziest road trips. Fallon is under contract to the automaker, but does not appear in the ad.
Perhaps the most intriguing tweet picked was this one from @AdinaSpivak: Two separate strangers proposed marriage twice in one day ... incidentally I was on my way to (someone else's) wedding.
This, and four other tweets are meshed into one story line in a 60-second spot.
"Our approach was, if we're going to be social, we need creativity," says VanDyke.
The theme, says Jon Pearce, chief creative officer at ad agency Hudson Rouge, is, "an unexpected story from an unexpected automobile."
The ad will highlight the redesigned 2013 Lincoln MKZ midsize sedan, the first of four new products over the next four years, says VanDyke. The hope, he says, is to lower the brand's average buyer age from the current 65 to 55 years.
Other luxury brands, such as Burberry and Gucci, have successfully made similar transitions, says Addis, the brand guru. "At least," he says, "it will be different from the endless parade of me-too car ads."
Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY