'FORD CHOICE' ADS REFLECT NEW PRICE STRATEGY

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Ford Motor Co.'s new pricing strategy will be reflected in 1998 Ford Division model ads breaking next month, dealers who have seen the spots said.

The ads put more emphasis on prices to differentiate the Escort, Contour and Taurus. Prices on the three cars overlapped this year, but Ford will eliminate price overlaps on its 1998 cars, giving consumers more of an incentive to step up from one to the next. The tag "Ford choice," reflecting the price segmentation, appears in the ads.

BETTER TARGETED

Several dealers, who asked not to be identified, said the '98 Ford ads are better targeted than those for '97, which was the first model year affected by Ford's brand-focused reorganization.

The Detroit office of J. Walter Thompson USA uses hip music in a new Escort spot and MTV-style quick cuts in a Mustang commercial. Three new spots for Taurus-repositioned last fall as an affordable, family car-use the song "I Can't Explain" by The Who.

One Taurus spot has a Nascar theme to tout the sedan's entry on the race circuit, replacing the two-door Thunderbird, which Ford won't make for several years. The Nascar ad refers to the four-door Taurus "blowing the doors off" competitors, dealers said.

Ford will put more focus on "Ford tough" in ads for its Ranger compact pickup, a slight change from 1997's more fun approach, the dealers said. JWT also created a new ad for the Expedition sport-utility vehicle that shows a trip down a mountain.

SPENDING UP 12%

The carmaker is expected to spend $610 million in measured media this year, up 12% from $544 million in 1996. The division's '98 ad budget will probably stay about the same, dealers said.

Ford Division Advertising Manager Gerry Donnelly didn't return calls.

Ford Division's minority agencies also will play a larger role in '98, dealers said. Hispanic agency Zubi Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla., created spots for the Ranger, Contour and Explorer. Zubi's '98 Escort and F-Series pickup spots, which broke earlier this year, also will be part of the fall mix.

Dealers raved about a new Explorer spot from UniWorld Group, New York, Ford's African-American agency. It shows a black, urban cowboy braving a pothole-filled

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