Heads are gonna roll...
May 2, 2004 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Heads are Gonna Roll • Ford Motor Co. is pissed at ad agency Ogilvy & Mather after O&M leaked a viral marketing ad for the Ford Sportka depicting "a realistic-looking orange cat climbing on top of the car and curiously poking its head into the open moon roof...The roof slides closed and the cat struggles briefly to escape before its headless body slides to the ground." Apparently Ford never authorized the commercial's (.mpg) release.
posted by dhoyt (33 comments total)
also, Snopes.
posted by milovoo at 12:45 PM on May 2, 2004

"Leaked a viral marketing ad" - isn't 'leaking' a great way to start a viral marketing campaign.

I expect the reaction will be something like this: "Gross. Cool car." Ford must really be outraged.
posted by stevengarrity at 12:45 PM on May 2, 2004

Considering how often I've seen this video and the fact it's now been posted on metafilter, I'd say the viral marketing campaign is going quite well.
posted by nixon at 12:46 PM on May 2, 2004 [1 favorite]

Golden proof of the fact you're dealing with marketing: calling viral marketing what is already effectively called "gross incompetence"
posted by elpapacito at 12:52 PM on May 2, 2004

Isn't this pretty much a double?
posted by kickingtheground at 1:13 PM on May 2, 2004

Ach. I searched for "Ford" and "cat" and "commercial" and so forth. Sorry.
posted by dhoyt at 1:23 PM on May 2, 2004

Ford: alienating the cat-owning populace since 2004.

I was quite surprised that this was not an ad for a(n) SUV, as one assumes cat people might prefer a small, interesting car to a big, loyal one.
posted by mwhybark at 1:27 PM on May 2, 2004

What an ugly car.
posted by bargle at 1:29 PM on May 2, 2004

Curiosity killed the ad agency?
posted by wfrgms at 1:40 PM on May 2, 2004

Considering that Ford has three of the top ten sewn up in the 2004 Lemon List, coming up with clever ad campaigns should be the least of their worries.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:02 PM on May 2, 2004

The ad agency, Ogilvy, has this up on their website:

Viral marketing, if leaked without permission, can be like a contagious disease. Silently transmitted and virtually uncontrollable, it can create unintended distress. On April 1, an unapproved viral advertisement featuring a Ford Sportka car was leaked onto the internet and began to be transmitted by email around the world. This "advertisement" was not approved for release and was not sanctioned by either Ogilvy or our client Ford.
The action in the video clip was totally computer generated, and we would like to assure you that no animal was harmed in its making.

Ogilvy and Ford of Europe deeply regret that this unapproved and unofficial video clip was accidentally released and apologize for any offense it has caused.

I mean... this and the Ford press release are so silly... I mean, it is obvious that they are just covering their tail from pet-lover hate mail when really they are sitting back and smiling... the video is everywhere... the snopes link alone is worth tons in unpaid advertising.

Imagine: a comercial that is seen by millions which doesn't cost you one dime in PAID air time.

Smart... very smart...
posted by wfrgms at 2:28 PM on May 2, 2004

I'm waiting for the doofus that decides to reenact.

Then the fur will really fly.
posted by konolia at 2:47 PM on May 2, 2004

Sick idea, gross car, awful company. Viral, indeed.
posted by stonerose at 3:58 PM on May 2, 2004

wfrgms: smart ? Connecting Ford brand with bad advertising is smart ?
posted by elpapacito at 4:13 PM on May 2, 2004

well, i'm a cat hater. i thought the commercial was funny. another example of americans getting peculiarly upset over advertising crossing certain taboos.

couldn't really care less about the car.

i've really got no reason to doubt that the ad was released on purpose, then denied coyly by ford, etc. is this really that much more heinous than typical marketing? it certainly doesn't feel any less credible to me. marketing, far as i can tell, is a pretty evil endeavor in itself.
posted by oog at 4:58 PM on May 2, 2004

i'm not really a cat hater. i just must be, if i can laugh at misfortune. who was it that said "comedy is a tragedy that happens to someone else," anyways?
posted by oog at 4:59 PM on May 2, 2004

The only real way to resist viral marketing is to try and avoid looking at such things in the first place. Even if you are uninterested or repulsed by the car not everyone will be (just like regular advertising) and as mentioned above Ford has this great distribution now that cost them.... nothing. If they are going to hawk their wares at least make them pay for it. (I am only speaking to the topic in general and not specifically as I refuse to watch it, less garbage in less garbage out)
posted by edgeways at 5:23 PM on May 2, 2004

Curiosity killed the ad agency?


Someone convinced Ford that release-&-deny would give all the benefits of an "edgy" campaign without the accountability against controversy.

It just backfired. We've seen this strategy work (and not work) many times before, and this won't be the last time.
posted by chicobangs at 5:28 PM on May 2, 2004

Marketing is so lame. Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame.
posted by josh at 5:33 PM on May 2, 2004

Ah, josh is aiming for the 'marketing-is-so-lame' market.

Huuuuge market there. Huuuge. We've done the research. Look at our charts!"

posted by chicobangs at 5:38 PM on May 2, 2004

Quit it! Don't turn everything into a dollar sign, please!

"...Oohh, the 'plea for sanity' dollar. Huge! Huge market!"
posted by keswick at 6:54 PM on May 2, 2004

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die." -- Mel Brooks
(Unless you were being rhetorical, oog.)

Funny commercial. At least it didn't feature a farting horse.
posted by emelenjr at 7:21 PM on May 2, 2004

I don't think I want a car that can do that.
posted by bingo at 7:55 PM on May 2, 2004

It's always funny how commercials accidently skip the entire storyboard, writing, and client feedback sessions and go straight into production, shooting and post production without the client's permission . . .
posted by cinderful at 8:49 PM on May 2, 2004

Has anyone seen the other commercial for the Sportka, with the car slapping a bird out of the frame by opening its hood really quickly? I loved that one. This one seems a bit extreme, though.
posted by Poagao at 1:55 AM on May 3, 2004

cinderful, ads like this get made at every agency. You see, the people working there often hate the crap they're forced to produce to satisfy their clients (make the logo BIGGER! you have to say the company name five times or they won't get it!). So, sometimes, they make little subversive stuff to vent a little steam. These are often very creative people forced to adhere to some stupid regulations (there are literally hundreds of pages detailing what Ronald MacDonald can and cannot do in an ad, for instance).

So it's pretty easy to understand how something like this could get made without the approval of client or agency management. Like the pasties in Disney's Brave Little Toaster, the same subversive spirit exists in ad agencies. I know, because I've done a few myself. It's great fun, saying and showing what you really feel about a product or company, or just plain being goofy with the technology.

I can't say if that's what happened here, of course, but it is a possibility.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:21 AM on May 3, 2004

Here's the pigeon ad, if anyone's interested.
posted by jalexei at 6:28 AM on May 3, 2004

No. The computer animated cat took significant labour to create. This isn't a knock-off done for a joke, this must have been approved at several stages of the process. As other posters have said, the ad agency and Ford are working together to claim this is "unapproved" in order to encourage distribution of the viral while avoiding criticism from animal lovers. The scheme is actually quite boring.
posted by skylar at 6:30 AM on May 3, 2004

This isn't a knock-off done for a joke, this must have been approved at several stages of the process.

And you can assert this how?

Look, I'm the creative director for an advertising agency. I KNOW FIRST HAND what can be done as a joke. "significant labour" be damned, this could easily have been done by a creative team having a little fun. It's a one-shot on a car in a driveway, something an agency would have tons of footage of if they were working on a campaign. The cat isn't that big a deal to create; it's not an elaborate render.

But now that I've seen the pigeon ad, too, I'm inclined to agree. Whether authorized or not, it's part of some campaign, and the most benign explanation is a rejected pitch (that is, a campaign that received a tentative go ahead at storyboard level from someone at Ford, but was killed on final review by someone higher up). It's curious that the furor appears to be over the cat ad, while smacking pigeons is apparently fine with everyone (note Ogilvy's "apology" refers to a single ad).

So, yep, appears to be viral. No wonder we're held in the same high regard as lawyers and politicians.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 7:23 AM on May 3, 2004

"No wonder we're held in the same high regard as lawyers and politicians."
You’re not.
...not that I'm sayin’ I share that conventional opinion.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 7:46 AM on May 3, 2004

ditto what GhostintheMachine said. Sometimes i'll do ads that would get everyone involved fired and or sued just as a joke.

especially with long term clients, they love to see crazy stuff that they know would never be publicly released.

personally, i find your average heroin-chic 13-yearold girl fashion ad in Vogue to be more disturbing than this spot.
posted by th3ph17 at 12:23 PM on May 3, 2004

Mmmm, I wonder if it has a cup holder for the Pepsi Blue, and room for the spanking chicken?

posted by dejah420 at 1:13 PM on May 3, 2004

That's a funny advert.
posted by seanyboy at 12:11 AM on May 4, 2004

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