The ad campaign for the 2015 Lincoln MKC launches this weekend on major college and professional football games and will run at least through next April, substantially longer than some other Lincoln campaigns.
By hitting the three biggest college football games and the opening weekend of the National Football League season, Lincoln hopes to get the same buzz it would get advertising on the Super Bowl, said Andrew Frick, Lincoln general marketing manager: "300 million impressions -- that's the expected broadcast television views we'll see through the launch weekend."
The campaign features Academy Award winning actor Matthew McConaughey, behind the wheel of his MKC in a series of slow-paced, meditative spots. The campaign -- called "Live in Your Moment" -- introduces Lincoln's entry in the luxury compact crossover segment, one of the industry's fastest growing.
Lincoln showed journalists five different spots that feature Mr. McConaughey in various scenarios as he ruminates in resonant Texas drawl behind the wheel of an MKC. The spots, directed by Danish film director Nicolas Winding Refn, were shot in Texas in late June. Mr. McConaughey invites viewers to experience the MKC through his eyes in a series of mini-stories.
The choice of Texas was deliberate, as was the quiet, understated tone of the ads. Lincoln wanted to feature the actor in authentic settings in his home city, Austin, and on the empty roads of western Texas near Marfa, said Jon Pearce, creative director for Lincoln's ad agency Hudson Rouge.
"These have a tone that's a bit slower and quieter than you see in a lot of commercials. These spots feel more like small films than commercials. I've probably been on every road in L.A. I'm sick of them."
"It came down to a guy, a car, the road. Each spot plays a distinct role," said Mr. Pearce.
In one spot, titled "I Just Liked It," Mr. McConaughey confides to the camera: "I've been driving a Lincoln since long before somebody paid me to drive it."
In another, titled "Bull," Mr. McConaughey comes face to face with a huge longhorn bull standing in the middle of the road.
"Nice big bull," says Mr. McConaughey. "That's 1,800 pounds of 'I can do whatever I want.' I can respect that."
Rather than challenge the bull, Mr. McConaughey coolly turns the MKC around and decides to take a different route.
Frick says Mr. McConaughey's representatives first contacted Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president of Ford marketing, sales, service and Lincoln, earlier this year. Mr. McConaughey liked what Ford was doing to reinvent the Lincoln brand, Mr. Frick said.
This is not the first cinematic affair Mr. McConaughey has had with a Lincoln. In the 2011 movie "The Lincoln Lawyer," he starred as a hustling lawyer who practices his profession out of the back seat of a chauffeur-driven Lincoln Town Car.
When Lincoln announced the McConaughey relationship last month, Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln, said in a statement that: "Matthew is a natural fit with Lincoln and where we are going as a brand. With the MKC coming to market in a hot, competitive segment, now is the perfect opportunity to share with a wider audience what our brand offers. Matthew is the ideal personality to help us tell this story."
Building dealer stock
Mr. McConaughey won the Academy Award for best actor for his portrayal of an AIDS patient who procures unapproved HIV drugs and distributes them to fellow patients in the 2013 film "Dallas Buyers Club."
Though the MKC has been on sale since May, Lincoln is determined not to repeat the mistakes it made last year with the MKZ sedan when advertising kicked off before dealers had cars to sell. Lincoln ran a one-minute MKZ ad during the 2013 Super Bowl telecast, but the advertising boost was largely wasted because Lincoln had botched the manufacturing launch, causing lengthy delays.
This time around, Lincoln made sure dealers had healthy stocks before launching the ads.
Lincoln sold 1,760 MKCs in August. Frick said Lincoln dealers will have a stock of about 5,000 MKCs as the inventory channel fills up this month.
Lincoln has hinted that Mr. McConaughey will serve as a spokesman for other new models beyond the MKC. But for now, the relationship will concentrate on the MKC. Mr. McConaughey will not be used in the campaign to kick off the refreshed 2015 Navigator, which launches near the end of the year.
--Bradford Wernle is a reporter for Automotive News.