Ford Creates Fake Marketing Research Co. For Marketing Campaign


What is wrong with marketers and advertisers?

Ford's campaign, Swap Your Ride, includes a TV commercial with this voice over:  

"We didn't tell them we were from Ford; we told them it was ... market research." 

According to a Media Post article  - "As part of the effort, Team Detroit created a faux market-research company, "In Home Test Drive Experience, LLC" to distance Ford from the research subjects."

The tag line on Ford's website supporting the campaign reads - No Scripts Or Prompts. Just Real People. Telling Real Stories.  Right. To a Fake Marketing Research Company.

Is this stealth marketing? Is it astrotrufing? Sounds like gray marketing at the very least to me. Not to mention that I feel it discredits the marketing research industry.  What do you think? 

Wonder what happens the next time Ford conducts "real research." Will respondents, who saw the commercial, assume that they're talking to a Fake Marketing Research Company? Will the screener include a qualifying question? Did you see the Swap The Ride Commercial? If yes discontinue. If no ask question number two.

What is wrong with marketers and advertisers? Where were the real market researchers?

Read More About Ford's Swap Your Ride
Professor Walter Carl, North Eastern University

Updated: Want to hear what the marketing research community thinks about the ad? There is a lively discussion on Merrill Dubrow's blog. Merrill is the president of M/A/R/C Research. 

The car maven, Jody DeVere. joins this conversation on Ask Patty and cross posts on BlogHer.

Sidebar: Tuesday 10/9 Shel Israel and Geoff Livingston join me on the internet radio show Diva Marketing Talk to explore Astroturfing and social media.


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I agree, Toby. This ad undermines the credibility of market research, particularly the way the announcer says "it was ... market research" (wink, wink). My concern is this tongue-in-cheek play on market research will further erode consumer response rates.

Posted by: Sybil on Oct 6, 2007 9:54:23 AM

Toby, what an absolutely and completely wrong approach. No wonder consumers are so suspicious of advertising from big companies: they simply get lied to.

Posted by: C.B. Whittemore on Oct 6, 2007 1:06:02 PM

Y'know, I thought something was off about those commercials but I couldn't put my finger on it at the time.

I understand using an independent marketing research company. But a fake one? How am I supposed to believe any results from that?

Posted by: J. Smith on Oct 6, 2007 1:31:59 PM

@Sybil - I agree. Data collection firms have a difficult time to begin with; sure doesn't help to be undermined by an advertising campaign.

@C.B. - When one sees something like this coming from a F-100 company, the principles of social media marketing and the message from Age of Conversation seem even more critical to promote. Thank you for your energies in helping wake up those marketers who seem to be a sleep.

@J. Smith - I found it odd too that Ford seemed to think it was cute to make up a fake research co. Why didn't they just hire a real marketing research firm? They would have had the same result with credibility!

Posted by: Toby on Oct 6, 2007 11:31:24 PM

A little late picking this one up? Seems kinda stale to me?

Posted by: Boris on Oct 7, 2007 12:28:24 AM

@Boris - Perhaps, but I recently saw the commercial on local TV and thought if I hadn't seen it than others may not have as well. The only person that I found addressing the issue of the impact of the fake research company was Professor Carl. I felt it was important to continue that conversation.

What are your thoughts about Ford's use of creating a faux marketing research company to "test" a product?

Posted by: Toby on Oct 7, 2007 2:29:35 AM

When I first started seeing those commercials, I was put off by the disingenuous approach, and the voice-over. Not the least bit cool. Thanks for sharing the Media Post article and for delving more into this subject. My concern is that we're going to see more of this type of approach, and the more jaded among us will just shrug our shoulders and shake our heads.

Posted by: Andrew Careaga on Oct 7, 2007 7:47:25 PM


This is totally the wrong approach. Very disappointed in Ford.

Unfortunately bad research gives the research industry a very bad name! I am sure Ford sees this as a successful campaign - I don't I wish they would pull the commercials.


Posted by: Merrill Dubrow on Oct 8, 2007 11:37:25 AM

@Toby: I doubt many lay people are troubled by the idea of a fake market research company, given the context of the commercial. But I am curious as to why they just didn't hire a real one, so as to increase authenticity. Seems it would have been just as easy.

One result of all this fakery is that consumers tend to assume that any spot with actual "real people" (this one included) has actually been shot using actors. So many industries also have (self-imposed) legal guidelines prohibiting them using actual customers- the financial industry, in particular.

Posted by: Tangerine Toad on Oct 9, 2007 9:34:51 PM

At least they revealed how they did it. But why does it remind me of a punk'd episode with Ashton?

I guess it's a take off on the reality TV or edu-tainment. Maybe they felt "real" research is too boring. Who knows. It would have had more credibility with a real company and they could have accomplished the same thing.

Posted by: Chris Brown on Oct 10, 2007 5:26:48 AM

I have to disagree. I think it is a marketing campaign, not market research. And its not as if anyone except market researchers are really watching the industry closely, just waiting for them to slip up, as some of you allude. I'm in the marketing and survey research fields simultaneously and I see brilliance here. Give people what they want, not what you think they need, which is more "unbiased" research that is really begun with an agenda anyways, then trotted out as if it were biblical truth. I agree we have to keep the industry integrity in-tact, but I think this is not an assault on the market research industry in any way. I was impressed by the ads and the fact that they disclosed their methods, to me, immunizes them from criticism. They said, "hey, we aren't claiming market choice, we're just saying they loved our cars." Just thought I'd offer a differing viewpoint.

Posted by: JB on Oct 10, 2007 1:33:34 PM

What is the real issue hear? That Ford did the "research" itself (instead of hiring a real research firm)? That they disclosed what they did during the commercial?

What would have been the best way to conduct this trest?

Posted by: BobB on Oct 12, 2007 2:47:30 PM

I have to disagree. I think it is a marketing campaign, not market research.

Posted by: markus on Oct 16, 2007 10:25:51 AM

The child being held up in the rear seat in the red edge ad .That's a big no no

Posted by: bob man on Nov 6, 2007 1:35:52 PM

I don't think this is such a bad marketing approach, it's not like they said they were a competitor...

Posted by: Mike Metelerkamp on Jan 6, 2009 5:17:24 AM

I think it was just Ford's attempt at humor. Like Markus said on 10/16/07, it was a market campaign, not market research.

Posted by: BestMark on Jan 7, 2009 11:27:30 PM

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