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Sears, Suckers

RAM- Sears, Suckers

Road trip! Are there any more tantalizing words in the English language to cubicle monkeys watching summer unfold outside their office windows? How about if the trip is on some famous stretch of American highway and someone hands you $1,500 to pay for gas, food, motels, beer and the like. Your job: to make a video introduction of you and your fellow travelers, then to tweet, blog, video and Facebook every step in your journey.

That's the pitch that Sears Auto Center gave the drivers across the U.S. in a marketing campaign that mimics a TV reality show. Only much more cheaply. The marketing part is that the participating cars have to sport Sears Auto signs and the company will use the video introductions and in-journey social media as branded content.

Energy conservation and carpooling be damned, social media is making the American road trip relevant once again. If not for everyone, at least for Sears Auto Centers. Last month the chain's auto repair shop launched the "Exploring My America" campaign that will send 21 teams on week-long journeys along nine of America's most iconic highways including the Appalachian Trial, the Dixie Overland Highway and, of course, Route 66 from Chicago to LA. Each car (supplied by the driver and emblazoned with Sears Auto signs), after getting a $500 tune-up at a Sears Auto Center, will be equipped with a video camera and a Wi-Fi card, turning the reality-TV style video footage and blog entries into branded content for the campaign's microsite, exploringmyamerica.com. 

Sears began accepting audition tapes from aspiring road-trippers on June 11 and by July 1 had received about 100 video auditions. Each week from July 11 through August 28, online viewers will vote for their favorite team (based on the photos, videos and blog entries created on the road) and the winning team will receive $500.

The company used its Facebook page and Twitter account to drum up interest in the contest. By late June, the company had about 1,500 followers on Twitter and 1,400 friends on Facebook. "We are inviting Americans to return to our country's great highways and explore the roadside attractions, landmarks and landscape that make America unique," says Bill Jackson, president of Sears Auto Centers. Ride on.

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