Ford’s recipe for a viral video campaign: First, take a puppet…

A little orange felt, a lot of comedic leeway, minimal product pushing, and Ford’s ‘Doug’ hits it big on YouTube, promoting the redesigned Focus.

Last year, Ford Motor Co. surpassed Toyota to become the No. 2 automaker in the United States. The company earned $6.6 billion in 2010. As of early March, the online campaign for its brand-new Ford Focus centers around an orange puppet who looks like he cost about five bucks.

Doug, voiced by comedian Paul F. Tompkins, has his own YouTube channel, a Twitter account and a Facebook page. And though his videos feature a well-known comedian and are directed by Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig, you won’t be seeing him on TV.

“We really developed these videos for the YouTube generation, if you will, that really enjoys entertainment,” says Jon Beebe, digital communications manager at Ford. “The purpose of the videos is to make people take a left-hand turn from their daily Web activities and pay attention to Doug the personality, but also the vehicle that he’s in and discussing.”

The company has shied away from pushing its new car too far down people’s throats, he says, keying in on being funny rather than listing off the features of the new Focus.

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