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Can Net Films make This Car Cool?


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March 16, 2006

Can Net Films make This Car Cool?

David Kiley

Net films have become an interesting genre. But with BMW having set the bar for excellence so high, only those prepared for harsh comparisons need enter the fray.

Enter, stage-right, Lincoln-Mercury. Last year, the Mercury brand of Ford—the forgotten brand that seems to change strategy every fifteen months—launched a curious (and I thought well done) episodic film titled www.meettheluckyones.com. The company is back, and this time Mercury’s older, much older, brother Lincoln is along for the ride.

Go to www.TheNeverything.com, and you will be invited to screen, download, and pass along by e-mail the first installments of a movie about two deranged twentysomething brothers named Humkin and Mopekey playing, pretending and working out a story aboard a boat that is in the middle of a field. The brothers have a unnatural fixation on milk, a sugary ceral called Jelly-filled Sugar Balls, and the treasures that come inside each box. The website also invites you to fill out an online sweepstakes for a Mercury Milan.

Is it interesting? Depends on who you are, I guess. Maybe its my 43 years, but I related better to the films over at www.lovelybysurprise.com. This is Lincoln’s Net movie meant to flog the Lincoln Zephyr. This film is about the author writing a book about…hmmmm…these guys on a boat obsessed about cereal. She is stuck—you know, a writer’s block sort of thing. So she turns to a mentor-type, played by veteran stage and film actor Austin Pendleton. Through the trailer, we know that in coming episodes, to be released weekly over five weeks, the author is going to get caught up in some pretty jiggy stuff. The characters seem to want to do their own thing and even dictate behavior to the author, which she executes in real life. They seem to want her to kill someone in a future episode.

Now, here’s where it gets a little buggy. As I watched both series of films, I thought…hmmmm….why are these films intertwined? Yes, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles are sold in the same showrooms, but they are very different brands with very different targets. Ford’s crack PR person pointed out to me that while the films intertwine, they totally stand alone. One could watch lovelybysurprise without ever knowing about theneverything. True. Each film does stand on its own. But given the viral nature of these things, it seems unlikely that those who take the time to watch one wouldn’t somehow get wind of the other site, even though there is nothing on the sites linking to each other.

If you really want me to get all Kevin Bacon on you, I’ll point out that the Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr are built off the same engineering platform and assembled in the same factory, and look too much, for my taste, alike. That's not a good thing. So, I guess there is some sense of the two films for two different brands being intertwined. Or is there?

I haven’t seen all the episodes of each film, but if they follow trend from www.meettheluckyones, there will hardly be a placement of the vehicles in the films. Is that a good thing? On one hand, you might say, yes. Good for Mercury and Lincoln not beating our brains out with the product inside the content. On the other hand, I would like to see these products play a little more—God strike me dead for saying this—prominently. I mean…what’s the point of this. Maybe I’m still too impressed with the BMW films, and the way the cars were co-stars in very good films made around very good stories. If I was the guy writing the check to pay for all this, I think I would like to see the product more cleverly handled so it stayed on the right side of “content” without slipping to the wrong side of “advertising.”

In any case, it’s nice to see Lincoln and Mercury generating something here that is worth writing about for eight paragraphs. I’ll be damned if any of the advertising I’ve seen in the last 20 years from these brands merits that much consideration.

05:50 PM

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