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Ford dares to imagine

Imagination helps Ford get its message across at the Melbourne show

Ford logo5 Jul 2011

CAR-MAKERS spend a lot of money attending motor shows because they believe it helps sell more cars.

But it’s difficult to think of a more competitive environment than to be surrounded by all your rivals shouting at motor show customers from their own stands.

Concept cars can help attract people to your stand, but none of the local manufacturers have the spare millions needed to produce a show-stopper these days.

So the task of attracting people to your stand becomes a more subtle, specialised affair and this is where a company called Imagination spins its magic.

The company has been working with the Ford group overseas for decades now, helping the company get the best out of its motor show investments.

It worked with Ford at the 2010 Sydney International Motor Show and this year’s show in Melbourne was the first time Imagination had worked with Ford in Melbourne.

“We look after all the design and execution of all their motor show stands, dealer events and employee engagements,” said Imagination director Alistair Wilson. “It is quite a far-reaching association.”

The key to Imagination’s approach is to make the visit to the Ford stand an experience.

The Ford stand in Melbourne includes a number of interactive attractions that could keep a person engaged for quite a while, giving Ford more opportunity to gets its message across.

Mr Wilson said there were 36 different interactive touch-points at the 2010 Sydney show, including live shows and a vehicle simulator.

“The dwell time on the Ford stand was an average 38 minutes, versus seven minutes elsewhere,” he said.

This year in Melbourne, the Ford stand is the largest in the show and is brimming with interactive displays and activities.

There are balancing discs connected to a video screen, where you move your weight on the disc to guide a “car” along a simulated test track on the screen.

There are push-button models demonstrating Ford’s EcoBoost engines and the importance of aerodynamics to fuel economy, an Aussie rules handball game, a super-sized slot car track and a magician, who has managed to weave Ford’s story into his act.

 center imagePerhaps the showpiece is the Focus Theatre, which is a Focus with a special covering on the outside of the windscreen. Sit in the front seats and an interactive movie is projected onto the screen from above the car.

The movie extols the virtues of Ford’s technology and takes ‘passengers’ through the various systems and knobs around the dashboard.

As if to ensure that no installation is missed, visitors to the stand are given a Ford Passport that they have to have stamped at each station. Collect all 12 stamps and win a prize.

“Imagination’s aim is to actively surprise and delight visitors. At the last motor show in Sydney, we achieved the longest dwell times of any stand, and visitor feedback was overwhelmingly enthusiastic,” Mr Wilson said.

The Ford stand was voted the most popular in the show, but Mr Wilson says “experiential” show stands are only part of the Imagination story.

Ford now calls in the company very early on in the gestation of a new vehicle. In fact, Ford’s global marketing chief Jim Farley brings in all the advertising and marketing experts as well.

“They bring us together right there and then, so we are all moving ahead as one team, so we are all informing what the vehicle needs to do, how we bring the message to life.

“Rather than just saying we’ve got the car now, here’s what it looks like, come up with an idea. We are all informing the process for many years in the lead up to that car being ready for market.”

Imagination follows through right to the launch of a new model. It designed the Ranger launch in Sydney last year with the new ute being dropped out of container suspended in mid-air.

Wilson says the essence of Imagination’s work is to add creativity to the client’s business. In Ford’s case, that means getting the message out to dealers, employees and customers alike.

Based in London, Imagination works for many high-profile companies including the BBC, Aston Martin, British Airways, Disneyland, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mazda, Shell, Sony and Vodafone.

The Sydney office has a client list that includes the Commonwealth Bank, Jaguar, Land Rover, Sanitarium and Blackmores, apart from Ford.

The company even picked up the City of Sydney as a client earlier this year, with the task of being creative director of Sydney New Year’s Eve 2011. The bid was won in conjunction with Marc Newson, the celebrated designer.

It’s the first time a creative agency has ever been appointed to the role and the aim is to enhance Sydney’s position as the New Year’s Eve capital of the world.

Mr Wilson, who has a long-standing association with Ford, Mazda, Jaguar and Land Rover, will be heading up Imagination’s new Melbourne office. He has been with the company for 14 years, starting in the London headquarters before working in the Hong Kong and Shanghai offices.

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