Last night was a great Social Media Club New York City (SMCNYC) meetup with the cast of contestants on the new NBC reality show Escape Routes. The program is sponsored by Ford and features the Ford Escape as an integral part of the show, taking product placement back to the 1950′s. 6 teams compete each week to win $100K and 2 new Ford Escape SUV’s. And the social media audience can take part weekly in challenges and win prizes too. The website includes lots of interactive games and badges to entice the online audience to play alone. On the website you can join a team, follow the contestants on Twitter.
The new twist for this show is that the contestants are encouraged to connect with their fans on social media and involve them in some of the challenges. On the first episode they were challenged to a game like “Hanging with Friends” popular on Facebook. The twist was that contestants were hung over the side of a 5 story building in a chair and pushed out on a plank with each lost round. The losers were finally “dropped” in a gut wrenching plunge to the ground. During this competition they were able to call upon help from their Twitter and Facebook audiences to help form words.
NBC and Ford also tapped well known YouTube personality iJustine to film a behind the scenes “After Show” which is live streamed online. Despite airing opposite the Final Four basketball tournament last Saturday night the program pulled respectable ratings for it’s debut.
Ford reported that the program got 2 million followers on the debut evening. Due in large part to iJustine’s considerable Twitter following of 1. 4MM. But also driven by the careful thought put into the social media engagement plan.
Asked what are they learning about social media the contestants said had a mix of old and new: They are establishing real connections with their audience and that is exciting and for some a little scary. They are finding their social media audiences very knowledgeable and helpful. They discovered that with the unpredictability of TV filming, lots of hurry up and wait, they can’t prep their fans to help them when they need it most. Perhaps that’s something the producers need to work on? Because marshaling the social media fans for participation in an event would build a very strong bond with the contestants.
One of the best quotes of the evening came from the Rossi Morreale host of the program who observed, “It used to be that when you watched one of these shows you would say, That’s Fake! Now you can Tweet the participants and ask them and they’ll answer you honestly about how scary or real it actually was.”
The contestants are a mix of some new to social media and some with substantial followings. The White Team (designated for the color of the Ford Escape they drive) of Brett and Ross are known as a YouTube team and they did an impromptu rap for the Social Media Club New York City audience:
All in all it’s a very interesting new twist that I’ll be following as Ford and NBC blaze new trails in social media and interactive TV