Ford’s YouTube campaign empathises with car buyers, drives results

March 2017

Ford is putting data at its core and creating content based on a simple question: “What are people searching for?” Ford, together with Google and GTB, produced five YouTube videos that addressed consumers’ car-buying mindsets and measured what worked.


Use common Google and YouTube searches to inspire creative approaches

Host createathon to produce five made-for-YouTube videos in 48 hours for Europe’s five biggest markets

Run videos in five different countries and use Brand Lift to measure performance


Understand what people are searching for on YouTube using industry specific keywords

Understand what connects with potential customers


All five ads had best-in-class (top 25% of peer set) results for ad recall

Three out of five ads showed significant increase in brand consideration

Ford of Europe was keen to explore new ways to connect with potential car buyers online. Given the increase in YouTube viewership around the world, Ford wanted to create messages that would speak to audiences in the many moments they turn to YouTube throughout the day. Ford’s theory was that if it could serve ads that showed an understanding of the car-buying pain points, it would influence consumers to think more favorably about the brand and lead to more Ford purchases.

Ford, its global media agency Global Team Blue (GTB), and Google’s creative think tank for brands and agencies, The ZOO, teamed up to uncover what car buyers care about based on Google and YouTube search data. Julian Watt, chief creative officer at GTB, said, “The starting point here was to listen to what our audience is watching. Let’s see what they’re searching for and let that inform the creative process.”

One of the main sentiments they identified was that customers don’t feel confident when they visit the dealership. “People are quite apprehensive about dealers. They feel they lose control the minute they enter the dealership,” continued Watt.

From this insight, creative direction for the YouTube TrueView campaign was born: “You can’t skip this dealership in five seconds.” GTB and The ZOO briefed five creative teams in Europe’s five biggest markets (the UK, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain), and the createathon was on.

TrueView ads that put viewers in the driver’s seat

Each team had 48 hours and a 10K budget to produce a film that would run on YouTube’s TrueView, with the goal of driving visits to Ford dealerships. The createathon challenged the team to produce films quickly, get them live in markets, and see what works via Brand Lift surveys. “We deliberately thought within the YouTube environment to create videos for the TrueView format,” said Watt.

The results for each team—the UK, German, Italian, French, and Spanish—were films that focused on the simple, human truth that caught people’s attention in the first five seconds. Despite similar challenges in each market when it comes to dealer perception, all films approached the topic from completely different angles and were truly unique.

The French team’s film focused on a man trying out the “six top tips for negotiating the best deal on your car.” The characters are funny and engaging, and after a series of ridiculous tips designed to get the car dealers to do what you want, the ad ends with: “Forget the previous tips. Find the place where you won’t need them.”

By telling stories that viewers could identify with from the very beginning, each film connected with people and drove strong results for Ford.

Createathon drives results in ad recall and brand consideration

The success of each of the five videos was measured using Brand Lift surveys. Google’s Brand Lift measures the effectiveness of brand campaigns on metrics that are closer to marketing goals than traditional clicks, impressions, and views. In this case, Ford and GTB settled on measuring ad recall and brand consideration.

The result? All five films had best-in-class (top 25% of peer set) increases in ad recall. Three of the five films—from France, Italy, and Spain—also led to significant increases in brand consideration, also reaching the best-in-class performance threshold.

Ford and GTB considered this first-ever pan-European YouTube createathon a success, reaffirming the need for dedicated digital films that respond to people’s needs when they turn to the web and that, in doing so, can steer viewers right to the dealership door.

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