Given that my Instagram feed is pretty much nothing but celebrity dogs, seeing funny dog videos when checking out social networks doesn’t usually come as a surprise. That said, seeing funny dog videos from major brands showing up on Facebook is eye catching, to say the least.

A few weeks back, Ford’s Barking Lot video caught my eye:

As I was scrolling through my feed, I saw this spinning little chihuahua without audio. And that’s all it took to get me to click play, and watch the entire video. And then watch it again, and send it to all my coworkers because I knew they would love it just as much as I did.

Now, car companies aren’t always on the cutting edge of internet humor. Most car commercials I think of tend to fit the following mold:

  • shots of fast-driving cars in a closed course,
  • a voiceover speaking to why the car is amazing,
  • a shot of the car screeching to a halt in front of a vibrant city or expansive vista,
  • and a voiceover explaining the car’s basic pricing and/or current specials.

So seeing this video from Ford was not only a welcome change, but a real shift in my understanding of how car companies market their products on social. It also got me thinking about why this video is so effective. So I reached out to Ford to find out more!

Cars, Like Dogs, Are Different

What really struck me about this video was that it wasn’t afraid to be playful with the dogs it cast for the cars. It seems that every car company wants their cars to be seen as powerful, sleek, and fast. The casting choice of dogs in this video speaks to how much Ford understands both the draw of the cars they’re selling and the personality traits of the people that buy them.

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Ford Fiestas, and their owners, are not always the same as F-150 owners. Casting a spunky, energetic chihuahua as the Fiesta, and showing a powerful St. Bernard pulling a wagon full of tinier dogs is a hilarious way of juxtaposing these two cars as being different breeds of the same awesome animal. Ford goes even further with this, showcasing the Mustang’s raw power and unique personality with a boxer, and highlighting the speedy but family-friendly Escape as an adorable Chocolate Lab.

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I asked Ford Canada’s Social Media Manager, Ammar Khan about how they brainstormed this kind of video, and his feedback is a testament to how connected Ford is with their social media fans. “The internet loves dogs. Incidentally, so do we! Our social media team’s mandate is to develop content that supports our pillars of quality, safety, smart technology, and green living.  Our social media team also develops lifestyle content that’s all about building brand love, loyalty, share of voice, and intent to purchase. Strategically, we knew that a video of dogs wearing Ford car costumes would help tick those boxes, and tickle the fancy of our extremely loyal Ford fan base. A piece like the barking lot is also a fun and engaging way to get people who are not part of our customer base to engage with the brand.”

Knowing how big of a company Ford is, I was also curious how Khan and his team went about building a video like this and keeping it within brand guidelines. It turns out, the process was highly collaborative. “It required a huge amount of input from our product teams; the costumes had to accurately reflect the dogs. Even casting the dogs was a thoughtful process, as we needed to select breeds whose bodies matched the proportions of the vehicles.”

“Even casting the dogs was a thoughtful process, as we needed to select breeds whose bodies matched the proportions of the vehicles.”

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It Fits for Ford’s Social Audience

A video like this would be funny as a TV commercial, but at a minute and nine seconds, it would be far too long for most network TV stations. Unlike most car commercials, this video also has several models of cars that all attract different buyers, so it wouldn’t have the focus that you need to nail a 30 second spot.

Having this video on Ford’s social channels gives them 3 big benefits over putting this creativity into a standard TV spot:

  1. It’s infinitely shareable. By putting this great dog video on their social channels, they open the door up for easy sharing both on social networks and privately. I copied the link for this video and posted it in our Marketing Slack channel, and instantly got them 10-15 more views in one day.
  2. Length is less of an issue. Facebook videos can be as long as you want, but Ford played the right card and kept this under a minute and thirty seconds. It’s too long for TV, but it’s perfect for social media.
  3. They can break canon. As I mentioned earlier, TV commercials for cars can be a bit programmatic, but social video is fair game. This video breaks the mold for most car companies, and it shines because of it.

I asked Khan about the importance of video for Ford’s social media strategy, and it turns out this is far from their first foray into creating viral content. “Video’s ubiquity across the social web has continued to grow over the past years, and we’ve made it a priority to give our fans more of the content they most like to consume! In addition to video, we also publish blog posts, GIFs, cinemagraphs, interactive infographics, animations, split-depth GIFs, run online chats, and interactive  quizzes. It’s all about finding innovative, creative ways to tell the Ford Canada story.”

“Video’s ubiquity across the social web has continued to grow over the past years, and we’ve made it a priority to give our fans more of the content they most like to consume!”

He also elaborated on their strategy of producing the right content for the right network, saying “When it comes to video, we try to create cuts of videos that work best for the channels they will be published on. For example our Facebook videos are often shorter than our YouTube videos and we optimize Facebook video for an environment where it will be played without sound.”

One thing I hadn’t considered was how Ford Canada interacts with the content produced by their partner organizations in other countries, and it turns out remixing content plays a big part of their strategy as well. “We produce quite a lot of original video — like The Barking Lot — throughout the year, but also take videos from Ford’s global channels and re-cut and edit them to create something a little different for our Canadian audience.”

Wrapping It All Up

A campaign like this is no accident, and it’s not hard for your company to execute something similar.

The key to Ford’s Barking Lot is brainstorming without limits. Dressing dogs up as cars is the kind of idea that gets added to a whiteboard as a joke, but slowly blossoms into something hilarious enough to be powerful on social media.

If you want to create content that makes people laugh and gets attention on social, don’t disregard ideas just because they sound silly. Ford has plenty of other video content on their Facebook feed, but this video stands out from the first second with four dogs dressed as cars staring back at you and panting at the camera. It’s also sitting at just under a thousand likes, and well over a hundred comments, which are always nice engagement metrics to have. Khan commented on the impact this video has had on their social programs, saying “This video is performing extremely well. It’s irresistibly shareable, which has really helped our organic reach and engagement. With a little paid promotion behind it on Facebook, we’ve seen outstanding pickup.”

And, since no blog post is truly complete without a good pun, Khan summed up this campaign perfectly. “We have a lot of dog lovers in our already-passionate community, so yeah, I guess you could say that reception has been extremely paw-sitive.”

Ruff, right?

Have you come across any videos on Facebook that made you pause, scroll back, and rewatch? Tell us about it in the comments — we’re always looking for great video examples to share!

Jon Spenceley