Ford banks on Yahoo reality series to launch new Focus


The Ford Motor Company (s f), which will typically spend up to $100 million on a TV-rich ad campaign when it launches a new car, is creating its own original reality competition series on Yahoo (s yhoo) to spark interest in its new Focus Electric model.

Produced by Magical Elves, the Hollywood production company behind such cable reality hits as Top Chef and Project RunwayPlugged In will feature two-person teams completing challenges in cities including New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. The duos will compete over 10 weekly episodes, culminating in a Los Angeles-based finale that will see the winning squad presented with a new Focus Electric.

Think CBS’ Emmy-winning Amazing Race, only with less globe-trotting and a lot more integrated sponsorship — teams, for example, will rely heavily on the Focus’ navigation and wireless broadband systems to get around. Yahoo says that about a third of its shows are created around a specific brand — a model harkening back to the 1950s, when traditional TV’s early programming lineups were populated with programs like the Texaco Star Theater and the Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars.

Each episode will run at least 10 minutes, with lengths differing based on the complexity of the week’s contestant challenge. Yahoo is currently conducting casting for the series, which will debut in May.

In its quest to take a portion of broadcast and cable TV’s $50 billion advertising share, Yahoo has infiltrated all kinds of reality genres once exclusively associated with traditional television. But this is the company’s first foray into reality competition.

At a New York press conference covered by outlets including Ad Age Tuesday, Ford marketing general manager John Felice would not reveal how much his company is spending to launch the show. But he did make it clear that Plugged In will usurp traditional TV advertising as the central, er, focus of the company’s Focus Electric launch campaign.

“This is a big bet on Yahoo,” he told reporters. “I’m not going to say that TV and traditional media doesn’t play a role, but this is going to be exclusively an online launch.”

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