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Ford reaches out to roaming gadget geeks

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Anyone logging onto one of the UK Wi-Fi locations run by free-hotspot.com and online-4-free.com this summer can expect to have to wait through a video advert for the new Ford Mondeo, before they get the promised free internet access.

The free Wi-Fi service is funded by advertisements. Some of these are simply static web pages, while others - including the Mondeo campaign - are video-based "Ultramercials", as the ad industry somewhat nauseatingly calls them, and can be anything from 15 seconds to a minute in length.

"Wireless advertising is the next big thing," claimed Marcel Misdorp, free-hotspot.com's sales veep. He said previous Ford adverts on the network have achieved click-through rates of six per cent, which is pretty good for an online ad.

He said the free Wi-Fi technology should work with any Wi-Fi-capable device, including PDAs and smartphones, but noted that so far 95 per cent of free-hotspot.com's usage is laptops. The smartphone proportion will rise though, once users realise it's both feasible and quicker than GPRS, he suggested.

Meanwhile, the giant car-maker claimed that sponsoring the Wi-Fi network fitted in neatly with the new Mondeo's status as its "most technologically-advanced" vehicle so far. However, there is no exemption from the ads for anyone perspicacious enough to already own a Mondeo, nor can the cars themselves go online yet.

"The new Mondeo is striking and unmistakably a member of the Ford family," the company said. "It is the latest and most advanced expression of Ford's 'kinetic design'. The distinctive front end has chamfered corners and a deep offset between the top of the bonnet and the front wings."

It added: "A muscular shoulder line runs through the side of the car to a high point at the rear. Distinctive rear lamps also feature carefully designed graphics that enhance the overall feeling of premium quality."

Hmm. Muscular, kinetic and technologically advanced - it sounds like a gadget geek's wet dream, which is presumably the Ford marketeers' aim.

The hotspots running the Mondeo ads include Meshhopper's former Thames Online network, now rebranded as online-4-free.com, plus free-hotspot.com's UK network of cafés, bars and other locations. ®

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