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.