Message to Ford: Show us the Car

Posted by: David Welch on May 5, 2006

Here we go again. Another advertisement from a car company that shows us everything but the car. Ford Motor Co. has launched a new advertising and marketing campaign entitled “Bold Moves.” The launch spot for television has a series of bold people who do things like skate boarding in a deep half pipe. Then we see a woman who shaves off all of her hair, a rodeo rider jumping on the prize bull and a young guy leaving the comfort of the country for bustling Manhattan. Ford’s ad agency JWT Inc. then attempts to tug our heartstrings with such inspirational lines as “Bold Overcomes” and “Bold Never Quits.” All the while, Kelly Clarkson is singing her anthemic song “Go.”

This is not only Ford’s attempt to gin up some chutzpa to its namesake brand, but it wants us to believe its buyers are real Americans and risk takers. They are gutsy people who will go out on a limb, not bland suburban types. They engage in cool hobbies. They’re like none of us.

Here’s a wild idea. Maybe I’m going out on a limb with this bold statement. But how about showing us the car? I’ve seen so many car companies who are trying to tell us who their buyers are. What we really want to know is what their vehicles are all about. Ford tells me that the forthcoming television ads will show the cars. In fairness, an older TV ad for the Mercury Milan has some great action and beauty shots of the car. And the Bold Moves campaign print ads definitely do. But in this first spot, which aired May 2 during “American Idol,” you only get brief glimpses of the automobiles they hope you will buy. It sounds like a lot of wasted money to me.

General Motors has made similar missteps with its Saturn division. Saturn for years has had ads featuring the customers, like young moms, single women who pick cars the way they pick boyfriends and dads who play ball with their kids. Now, after carving an image as the friendly and caring brand, Saturn says they have underplayed their products. They say they need to tell people that they have some new cars for sale.

By contrast, Dodge has managed to blend image advertising with product play pretty well. The brand does feature redneck guys who love truck pulls and such. But they always manage to show a Dodge truck or a Charger muscle car in its glory before boasting that it has a Hemi engine unde the hood. The result: Dodge boasts brawny, rough Americana kind of image and then hammers home the point with its brash-looking truck grilles and big Hemi engines.

Enough of this smarmy crap featuring people doing activities that almost none of Ford’s buyers really do. I want to see Mustangs laying down rubber, F-150 pickups towing a speed boat, the Fusion sedan taking tight corners, or even an engineer testing out one of the company’s hybrid-electric vehicles. I want to know what they trying to sell me. I understand image marketing. But this first ad isn’t how you do it.

Reader Comments

Joe Thompson

May 6, 2006 3:15 AM

I agree with your points. Ford should concentrate more on building better cars.

Ron Rickerds

May 6, 2006 10:13 AM

I agree with your comments....as I watch the U. S. auto industry shrink....A few years ago, Ford's big ad campaign was "buy American"....not quality, not innovation,...buy this "new" wrapper around an old engine.:-) The areas zoned for auto dealership are all being built with new and or expanding Toyota, Honda, dealerships...domestic dealerships are decaying within their own original walls....even used car dealerships are gaining preferred spaces.

Greg

May 6, 2006 10:28 PM

I just came back from a four-day trip to visit Nissam, GM, Dodge and Ford. While none of them closed any deals with me, Ford seemed to be the company most on the ball. They even had their test drivers take us around the test track in their latest models. From that experience, I can assure you that they are massively UNDERselling the Fusion - I was stunned at how well that car could get around the track. Of course the Mustang was fun, but that was to be expected. Their ads may not show it, but the company seems to be on the right track with the product. I am even considering buying a GT500 and I thought hell would freeze over before I would buy a Ford.

kevin

May 8, 2006 2:24 PM

Of course they won't show the product. People might notice how fatally ugly the fusion is from the front, or how ludicrous-looking the 500 and Crown Victoria are.

Anonymous

May 9, 2006 11:27 AM

Here's an interesting Consumer Generated Content site for the Ford Escape Hybrid I came across:

http://www.escapepollution.com.

I found it via the MarketingShift Website.

http://www.marketingshift.com/2006/04/escape-pollution-in-ford-escape-hybrid.cfm.

A follow-up interview was recently posted as well:

http://www.marketingshift.com/2006/05/interview-escape-pollution-creator.cfm

Stacey Wilson

May 10, 2006 12:48 AM

Such a shame if you can pour so much money on ads and can't even make improved products.

Joel A

May 12, 2006 12:27 PM

Actually, I kinda like it. Ford's released some excellent products of late even for an enthusiast like me. (Exception: Freestyle.)

The ads, though, are there to invoke emotion. C'mon. Most modern cars are pretty similar. This is especially true for those fighting in the mid-segment, the biggest and most profitable area. Much of the differences are in the emotion, not the stat. Ford's aiming at the heart in a similar manner like Toyota and Honda did promoting their hybrids. The biggest risk is if Ford can't deliver with their vehicles which I personally believe is minimal.

Matt Barnes

May 12, 2006 2:29 PM

Let's face it, Americans will buy anything you sell to them. If the marketing catches our attention long enough to make an impression we will buy. America is an advertised nation. Suggestion is a powerful tool.

John

May 17, 2006 10:38 PM

The Fusion is not ugly. This post, however, is correct.

Christopher

May 23, 2006 11:16 AM

I agree. Catchy tunes are fine and enjoyable but Product is what it should be about. Ford needs to improve reliablity foremost. The Fusion and Milan are steps in the right direction styling wise.Only detail problems like the excess chrome turn me away. The new Mustang is wonderful. How about a couger like the late sixties for Mercury?Ford now needs to turn it's eyes on the small car market. The focus needs a styling update. Even small things like tri color tail lights would freshen it up.

Jake

May 31, 2006 1:32 PM

Even as pure brand fluff, the new Ford ads are horrible.

Frank

June 2, 2006 10:26 AM

Ford really needs to get it's act together!
The Fusion is a really nice car, but could use a HP bump. The 500 needs a punch to get sales moving. Maybe a more powerful engine and a few more standard options would help. STOP the incentives and use that money to build better cars!!!
Why not offer the TBird platform as a very cool Lincoln or upscale Merc. They already have the basics/just give it a cool new look. Retractable hard top.
The Focus launched in Europe is WONDERFUL....I am just amazed they don't do the same in the US. We get the red headed stepchild and then they wonder why Americans don't buy? NO MORE SVT? Who was the idiot that killed that? SEE the Imports......BMW has the M, Mercedes has AMG, Most all brands have a high end tuner to give those blans cars some style and excitement......Most of the Ford line up is boring!

Marcus

June 4, 2006 10:33 PM

I sort of agree with this post. Sure it is very important that Ford shows that they have vehicles that will eat a Toyota or Honda anyday but they must also psyche the customer up a little bit. However they are concentrating to much on psyching the customer up. They need to also concentrate a little on showing Mustangs laying down fat rubber marks, F Series trucks pulling moves that competitor trucks can't, Rangers kicking ass, and their other cars like the Fusion going fast and appearing to be very maneuverable yet a very good family car. Overall the ads need improvement, but are somewhat good as is. The improvement though that they need is very important, without they are dooming themselves quite a bit.

Josh

September 28, 2006 11:12 PM

Ford is having trouble selling cars, so I guess they're trying to de-emphasize the product, and try to get consumers to buy by making them feel like the "bold" people they portray as Ford buyers. A little like the "Be Like Mike" Nike campaigne without having to pay up for a big name endorser. It's not the product ... it's the image.

DAN SMITH

August 6, 2007 5:01 PM

THE CAR IS SOMEPLACE ELSE:

FORD ISN'T SHOWING US THE CAR BECAUSE NEARLY ALL OF THEIR NEW, DYNAMIC PRODUCT IS GOING TO EUROPE AND NOT THE UNITED STATES. BACK IN 2006, THEY INTRODUCED AN INCREDIBLY STYLISH CROSSOVER CONCEPT VEHICLE CALLED THE IOSIS X. IT WAS EXACTLY WHAT MERCURY NEEDED TO BOOST FLAGGING SALES. AND NOW IT'S BOWING AS THE KUGA THIS FALL. THERE'S ONLY ONE BIG PROBLEM. IT'S ONLY GOING TO BE SOLD IN EUROPE. FORD HAS DECIDED TO IGNORE THE WORLD'S LARGEST, MOST AFFLUENT AUTOMOTIVE MARKETPLACE AND INSTEAD MARKET IT IN A SMALLER, MORE ANEMIC GEOGRAPHICAL ZONE WHERE SOCIALIST GOVERNMENTS SQUEEZE NEARLY ALL OF THE PROFITS OUT OF PRODUCTION AND SALES. THEN THERE'S THE INCREDIBLY POPULAR AND ATTRACTIVE MONDEO SEDAN AND WAGON. THEY'RE ALSO ONLY BEING BUILT AND SOLD IN EUROPE. FORD ALSO HAS A LARGE NUMBER OF REALLY ATTRACTIVE VEHICLES THAT ARE BUILT AND SOLD ONLY IN AUSTRALIA. JUST IN CASE YOU DON'T ALREADY KNOW, AUSTRALIA'S ENTIRE POPULATION WOULD FIT INSIDE NEW YORK CITY... FIVE TIMES. ALL WE GET ARE WARMED OVER MODELS AND A NEW CUV THAT'S BIG ENOUGH TO CARRY NEARLY AN ENTIRE BASEBALL TEAM, INCLUDING BAT BOYS. GREAT. NOT MANY FAMILIES NEED SEATING CAPACITY LIKE THAT. MAYBE FEDEX AND UPS WILL BY A COUPLE HUNDRED, BUT JOE SIXPACK AND HIS BUDS ARE GOING TO STAY AWAY IN THEIR MILLIONS.

CAR COMPANIES FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE CURRENTLY BUYING LAND AND INCREASING PLANT CAPACITY HERE AS FAST AS THEY POSSIBLY CAN. BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE WHO BUY NEARLY ALL OF WHAT THEY BUILD. GENERAL MOTORS IS FOLLOWING SUIT. MORE OF WHAT THEY'VE BUILT OVERSEAS IS NOW GOING INTO PRODUCTION HERE, BECAUSE THE COMPANY THINKS AMERICA WANTS TO BUY THEM IN VERY LARGE NUMBERS, AND PROFIT MARGINS PER UNIT ARE HIGHER HERE THAN NEARLY ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD. WE HAVE HIGHER LIVING STANDARDS, CHEAPER GASOLINE AND MORE PEOPLE WILLING TO SPEND MORE MONEY ON HIGHER QUALITY TRANSPORTATION. ON AVERAGE, THE UNITED STATES IS SELLING 16-MILLION VEHICLES TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR EVERY YEAR. MAYBE FORD SHOULD MOVE CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS FROM DEARBORN TO HELSINKI. I'M DAN SMITH FROM SQUARE-ONE AUTOMOTIVE. PLEASE SEND ALL COMMENTS, OBSERVATIONS AND COMPLAINTS TO DGORDONPORSCHE@NC.RR.COM

S.C.

August 13, 2007 12:03 PM

I really wanted to buy American, but I felt empty after visiting a Ford dealership. I just cannot comprehen why a customer would ever buy a Ford after trying out ANY Japanese or European models. The feeling of quality and user friendliness is totally different. Help!!! Please show me a Ford, or a GM, that was designed and built with the same HEART, I will buy it right away.

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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