The first look at the 2019 Ford Ranger attracted a crowd, but who would have expected to see the Loch Ness monster in the background?

In the spirit of "Fantastic Beasts and where to find them," Nessie does a cameo in promotional photos for Ford's new mid-size pickup. Mythical and extinct – right? – Creatures like a jackalope and dinosaur are among the "Easter eggs" that Ford has hidden in photos that show ranger owners how they enjoy fishing, cycling, and other activities that bring nature closer to them.

Not every picture in Ranger Gallery is shy Beastie is lurking in the background. Some just show the truck, while others contain mysterious tracks and other clues to the wonders awaiting adventurous ranger owners.

The idea was born in an early internal presentation on the characteristics of the ranger. One team member created a PowerPoint slide that illustrated pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking by stopping a ranger on a wooded path so as not to hit Sasquatch.

"Ranger is a funny name tag and we decided to do things a little differently than normal trucks," said Ranger Marketing Manager Chad Callander.

Hidden jokes like these are called easter eggs. The idea was born by video game designers hiding screeching gags that real fans would appreciate. The designers of Fiat Chrysler accompanied the fun with Easter eggs, which brought small silhouettes of the original Willy Army Jeep to the new vehicles.

Ford snuck the first two Ranger Easter Eggs into photos that were put online when the pickup debuted on the American market at Detroit's International Auto Show last January. It is not clear when the ranger fan with the first sharp eyes has discovered one. The idea prevailed and Ford added eight. Nobody says if there is more.

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"People reacted very favorably," Callander said. "It's a great way to engage potential owners." The easter egg hunt also keeps people on the site longer, every marketer's dream.

The Easter eggs were a closely guarded secret in Ford. The marketing team came up with the idea and engineered it.

"We wanted to emphasize the merry side of the ranger," Callander said. "Like the comedy, it would be easy to rethink this."

The ranger of the 201

9 season will hit the market in early January. There's no word about Nessie's appearance for the year 2019. Still.

Contact Mark Phelan: mmphelan@freepress.com or 313-222-6731. Follow him on Twitter @mark_phelan

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