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 Q&A with Crystal Worthem – Ford and Zynga Collaborate to Reveal Escape

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LOS ANGELES - Ford and Zynga, the world’s largest social game developer, are collaborating to reveal the all-new 2013 Escape in a novel integration of social platforms and mobile gaming.

Fans of the popular mobile and online social game, “Words With Friends,” will be able to participate in a bigger version of the game on Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. PST/11 p.m. EST. Actress Jenny McCarthy will compete against the entire country in the world’s largest Words With Friends game, and in the process reveal the all-new Escape.

@Ford Online spoke with Crystal Worthem, manager, Ford Brand Content & Alliances, about the event.

Q. How did you come up with the idea to reveal the new Ford Escape through the Words With Friends social game?
A. We were in the process of developing an Escape pre-launch program – called Escape Routes – and we were thinking about how we could make it bigger and better than Fiesta Movement and Focus Rally.  How could we get even more eyeballs on it?  One of the things we started talking about was the popularity of social gaming.  Gaming isn’t just for kids anymore.  Most of our co-workers, spouses and family members are playing social games on their mobile phones or on Facebook.  And when you look at the numbers they are staggering. The top games each have 20 million-plus people playing.  So we wanted to figure out a way to associate the Escape Routes program with social gaming in a way that’s really cool and kick it off with a bang.  So out came the idea of bringing Words With Friends to life in Hollywood and revealing the Escape there. 

One of the things that we found out when we researched social gaming was that there are many celebrities who play Words With Friends.  They give their IDs out on Twitter so people can play them.  And what’s cool about the game is that you can play individual games with multiple people at the same time. 

Q. How will the game work?
A. Actress Jenny McCarthy will basically be playing Words With Friends with the rest of the world.  She will be playing against the live audience that’s there in Hollywood as well as people who are at home playing. 

The live game will take place at Hollywood and Highland in the Los Angeles area, and will also be live-streamed at and so fans at home can play along.  The game will take place from 8 to 9 p.m. PST tonight and players can submit their word suggestions through the live-stream chat.  There will be an administrator on-site in Los Angeles taking in the words from all over the world and from the people on-site and playing those words versus Jenny McCarthy.

As the board fills up with words, you’ll be able to see different pieces of the Escape.  Then at the end of the game, we’ll reveal the entire vehicle.  There will be a vehicle on-site in Hollywood as well.  People who are not in Hollywood will be able to see the new vehicle on the Escape Facebook page.

Q. Why does this social gaming idea work well with the new Escape?
A. The DNA of Escape is all about being smart. The Escape offers a lot of new technology, so we thought we could go a little more high tech with the type of game we associated ourselves with.  The smartest way to express social gaming is through Words With Friends because it takes skill and savvy.  And if you look at the type of people who play Words With Friends, a lot of professionals play it in addition to celebrities.  It’s not just a game for fun.  You really exercise your brain with it as well. 

Q. Is there a particular audience that you’re trying to reach with the Escape launch through Words With Friends?
A. The way we talk about this target customer is they are plugged-in professionals.  They are tech-savvy.  They may not be first to market but they are tech-savvy and they live a professional lifestyle.  They work during the day but social gaming is also part of that fabric of who they are.

Q. Tell us more about Escape Routes?
A. Words With Friends kicks off the first of a series of social gaming initiatives that will be launched as part of Escape Routes, which is a new online, interactive reality series featuring the all-new Ford Escape that continues into 2012. The team-based competition will include virtual and real-world challenges.

So there was Fiesta Movement. There was Focus Rally last year.  And now we are putting together another online series called Escape Routes.  That’s how we got into social gaming because we were looking for ways to make this program bigger than Focus Rally and get more eyeballs on it.  Tonight’s Words With Friends event will be the kick-off for Escape Routes. 

We are going to cast teams for the Escape Routes reality show at  Starting tomorrow people will be able to go to the website and submit a video to become a cast member.  The teams will be doing challenges across the country and when we actually start the show we may bring other games to life, such as CityVille or Hanging With Friends.  That’s the ultimate plan. 

Q. How challenging is it to come up with new ideas to launch vehicles – especially following the success of the Fiesta Movement and Focus Rally?
A. It’s incredibly challenging because it would be a lot easier if you tried and failed but we’ve tried and we’ve been able to move the needle significantly on brand opinion and purchase consideration on programs like Fiesta Movement and Focus Rally. So it’s how do you continue to one-up those programs. And you really have to stay on top of trends – especially digital trends – to see what’s going on in the marketplace and how you can leverage those trends to basically captivate a market around a vehicle launch.







11/15/2011 12:00 AM