Fallon Chooses Ford amongst Controversy & Salespeople Humiliation

Last month, I wrote an article on how Jimmy Fallon announced during “The Tonight Show” that he was in the market for a truck. Manufacturers immediately took to social media in attempts to convince the popular talk-show host that he should choose them, including Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet and Nissan. Fallon announced last week that he had chosen to purchase a 2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch. He then further announced that, while he had chosen the truck, he had not decided who he was going to buy it from. A cooperative effort between Ford and “The Tonight Show” conjured up a contest they named “Fingers on a 4x4,” in which 10 salespeople from around the country would participate for the opportunity to sell Mr. Fallon a truck, by putting their hands on a Ford F-150 located on the aircraft carrier U.S. S. Nimitz. The contest being that any salesperson would be eliminated from the competition if they removed their hands from the truck. The last person with their hand on the truck would get the privilege of selling Mr. Fallon his new truck.


There are a couple things happening in relation to this that have some people within the automotive community grumbling. Apparently, according to Variety, Fallon’s selection of the Ford may not have been a matter of personal taste, but rather, one of corporate politics. What’s not public knowledge is that Ford has a product placement pact with NBC Universal, and spends money for the privilege of these placements. This type of product marketing has been more commonplace since the advent of DVRs and the consumer’s ability to avoid watching commercials altogether. However, it’s much more difficult to avoid when the commercial is integrated into the actual program content itself. So, this may not have been as fair a fight as manufacturers were lead to believe.


Also, while it could be said that it is great exposure for the dealership which employs the winning salesperson, during the first segment announcing the ten salespeople, only two or three of them actually mentioned the name of their dealership. Not much exposure there for the dealership itself. And how does this contest benefit the salesperson? Sure, they get to fly to New York, have their five minutes of fame on the show. And then the contest is televised as they stand on an aircraft carrier for an indefinite amount of time for a chance to actually sell a truck. Any salesperson worth his salt should have more opportunity to sell a vehicle by doing the one thing that they do every day – show up for work.


There are certainly better methods that could have been used to create a contest for the selection of these ten salespeople. They could have been chosen by CSI scores; product knowledge; walk around contests; or any other means in which they get to show their professional ability to sell Fords. I’ve seen plenty of similar sentiments within automotive groups.


Ultimately, only two entities benefit from this arrangement – Ford and NBC. It gives Ford great exposure and solidifies NBC’s relationship with Ford as a value-add to a current advertiser. This may be a fun challenge for the salespeople involved, but many feel that in the grand scheme of things, it actually serves to humiliate them. Any good salesperson would have the ability to sell many more vehicles by staying put. And any dealer would prefer it if they were to stay put.


Do you think this contest helps or hurts salespeople?


UPDATE: After 38 hours and 52 minutes of holding his hand on a truck, a salesperson from Illinois will be the one who sells Fallon a Ford truck.

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Comment by William Phillips on April 14, 2014 at 10:19am

Disrespectful to the hard working people in the industry in what it implies.  Typical Liberal, progressive, left stupidity.

Comment by Elmer Kruys on April 14, 2014 at 7:58am

much to do about nothing if you ask me. Literally keeping a hand on a car to win a 'contest' on national TV? Nice branding event for Ford, the link between nbc and ford pretty much says it all: they are the winners in this

Comment by L Wittrock on April 12, 2014 at 4:36pm

This would have been much better if the winning salesperson won the same truck-since Ford was involved-it is a marketing write-off. Much more excitement would have been generated, and more publicity.

Comment by Jeffrey D Inskeep on April 12, 2014 at 11:28am

We had some mixed conversation on this, personally I think it was all in fun and if one of my "better" salespeople would have wanted to do it, it would have been supported. Even without mention of my store. I don't think any buyer would travel a distance to purchase a vehicle from a particular person who was in or won this event, but would be good for the that person to promote themselves locally.

Comment by Richard Holland on April 11, 2014 at 3:04pm

Thanks for the comments! (and to Connie for the corrections)

Comment by jeff sterns on April 11, 2014 at 2:51pm

Hi Richard, 

I went back and forth on this. There is spending time to make a few sales vs spending time with a small chance at selling Jimmy his truck.

Here is where I landed: I say go for it! I remember that when I used to jump in my car for a few hours to drop off a client's tag and some touch up paint to another, it was not to sell a car....now. It was for future business. Same as when I attended other networking events.

If I was the salesperson, I'd want to be there and win if possible. Why? To promote myself later! Regardless of dealership mention on the show, I'd market myself...whether i wil or lose!

And if I was a boss at the store and one of my staff had a chance, I'd be happy to support the time off and travel of my salesperson and bonus him/her if they won...and promote him or her later (some sort of congratulatory ad)...win or lose. 

Publicity is publicity and a thing to talk about with clients to make you interesting can never hurt, right?

Comment by Connie Keane on April 11, 2014 at 2:37pm

Opps, couple of corrections: Fallon... not Kimmel, right? Unless Kimmel is also doing similar event.

2015 F-150, not 1015.  

Good blog, Richard, enjoyed reading! The revelation of the NBC-Ford partnership gives new context to meaning of native advertising.

And on the selection of his King Ranch, I guess Fallon would say it's "Big Enough"!

Comment by Joelle Felice Paige on April 11, 2014 at 2:19pm

I hadn't thought about it in these terms until now - but you're onto something. Great post!

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