Ford will augment print to launch Escape SUV

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Ford Motor Co.'s corporatewide edict to film no TV commercials during the commercial actors strike has forced its Ford Division to pump up its print buy for the crucial launch of its all-new Escape sport utility vehicle. The beefed-up print plan isn't replacing TV, which will arrive after the strike ends, said executives close to the situation.

The division added an estimated $8 million "My Dream Escape" promotion to the compact sport utility's launch, which is expected to total $40 million. The promotions and Escape print ads arrive in October. Ford plans to advertise the upcoming promotions in USA Today during August and September, directing consumers to the 16 magazines.

Each of the books is developing "Dream Escape" contests that fit with its niche. For example, the promotion Golf Digest develops would be different from Food & Wine's. The other magazines are Bicyling, Esquire, Glamour, Men's Health, Mountain Bike, National Geographic, Outside, People, Rolling Stone, Self, Sports Illustrated, Talk, Tennis and Vanity Fair.


J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, will create a variety of print ads that will match the those titles' niches, said an executive close to the matter. Ford is "much more targeted" with Escape's print campaign than past vehicle launches, the executive said. The SUV is aimed at two consumer groups: active, adventure-seekers and urban sophisticates.

Ford is paying for the promotions, which aren't added-value deals from the magazines, a second executive close to the carmaker said.

JWT declined comment, as did Jan Klug, the marketing communications manager overseeing advertising at Ford Division.

The 2001 model Escape, starting at $18,160, brings Ford into a new SUV segment, competing against Toyota Motor Sales USA's RAV4, American Honda Motor Co.'s CR-V, Nissan North America's Xterra and DaimlerChrysler's Jeep Cherokee. Ford expects to sell at least 100,000 units in its first full year. The Escape is kin to Mazda North American Operations' new Tribute; both are made at the same plant in Kansas City, Mo.


Mazda, controlled by Ford, will launch 15-second teaser spots for the Tribute early in August (AA, June 19) in a media blitz that could reach as high as $84 million. The spots were shot before the actors' strike.

A Ford Division spokeswoman said the carmaker will announce Escape's launch plans in the coming weeks. The first part of the launch will be in print and on the Internet, with TV later, she added.

The brand started an Escape giveaway sweepstakes on its Web site in June. That promotion ends Nov. 30. Entries can be made via Entrants can request e-mails from Ford notifying them of the upcoming mydreamescape.

com contest.

Dans Callans, an Arizona Ford dealer and vice chairman of Ford's dealer council, said he expected to get his first Escapes late in August. He said he believes Ford will inform dealers about the SUV's launch next week.

Meantime, Ford is starting its summer sell-down of 2000 models with advertising by regional dealer ad groups. JWT has the majority of the accounts. Mr. Callans said his region is using TV that JWT produced before the strike.


A Ford dealer in Texas, who requested anonymity, said his ad group had JWT redo the local commercials the shop created for the 1999 model clearance. "Luckily the deals are the same, so we can use the same voice-over."

He said he's quite concerned about the carmaker's ban on filming new TV spots. He'd like Escape to get a traditional blitz on TV -- the best place, in his opinion, to build awareness. The dealer would be happy to wait until October for TV commercials, when more Escapes are in the pipeline.

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