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OSU grad promotes new car through social networks

In this economy, spending six months driving someone else’s car doesn’t seem like a bad idea, especially when it’s a new fuel-efficient Ford Fiesta. In a unique marketing approach, Ford has selected 100 people to test drive and spread the word about the Fiesta. Ohio State alumna Kelly Olexa is one of those lucky drivers.

Olexa, a 1996 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history and history of art, found out about the movement from a friend through Twitter. Winners were selected based on their experience with social networking and personal branding — and with more than 18,000 followers on Twitter and her own Web site, Olexa certainly fits the bill for how Ford describes their agents: “socially vibrant.”

“I had become thoroughly convinced of how beneficial [social media] is for businesses and business individuals to be engaging through the various platforms,” Olexa said. “When I read how Ford was embracing the opportunity to help launch their new vehicle, I couldn’t wait to be a part of it. It is very exciting to be a part of one of the first and most visible social media movements.”

The “agents” tweet, blog and video blog about their experiences with the Fiesta through MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and their personal Web sites. Each mission is video recorded and put up on the Fiesta Movement Web site, allowing audiences to track the agents’ progress and experiences.

So far, it appears Ford is having success with this money-saving technique of using the masses to market a product.

“With 4.3 million hits on YouTube and influential magazines and newspapers talking about the movement, it has definitely been a success,” said Doug Hochberg, a third-year in political science who works for Strategic Public Partners Group, a firm that does grassroots public relations for Ford. “Because of the success of this movement, Ford is looking at 50,000 potential Fiesta drivers, with 97 percent of those consumers new to Ford.”

The agents are required to complete themed missions each month to promote the vehicle, which will be released in the United States in 2011. From white-water rafting to marathon running, and recreating films to Twitter conferences, the agents travel across the country with their Fiestas.

“My personal challenge has been wanting and needing more time to get more creative in showcasing the Fiesta,” Olexa said. “It’s an incredible vehicle and I wish I could afford more time to building more awareness locally than my work allows.”

Olexa will be traveling from her home in Chicago to New York City to participate in October’s mission.

“[It’s] under the theme of ‘Entertainment’ so I’m heading to NYC for the New York City Wine & Food Festival,” Olexa said. “I’m a huge foodie, and we’ll get to attend all the Food Network bashes and share our experience via video and photos.”

Aside from being a food lover, Olexa is also a Buckeye fan and fitness guru. “I have a huge addiction to all things fitness-related — to getting fit and then staying fit. That’s what my personal blog is all about — that passion.”

Olexa still has her doubts about her new found Web fame.

“I have never in my life had any desire to be an actress or celebrity, so it has been a big adjustment to do the kind of work that I do, and attend events where all these people know who I am — and yet I’ve never met them,” said Olexa. “They know everything about me from my videos or tweets or articles, yet it’s the first time we’ve met. I consider it an honor, and I’m humbled by it and grateful for it.”

She also takes this “stardom” seriously, and wants to help her audiences “do something.”

“I want to use Web-lebrity to help my clients more; to teach others how to build up that personal brand and ideally transition that into a career. My life has truly been blessed by all the amazing people I’ve met and now work with on a regular basis. I wake up every day in awe, truly. It’s an awesome thing.”

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