"Story-telling is part of the human DNA," said Janet Klug, who joined Ford Division as marketing communications manager earlier this summer, from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. "People can really relate to it. You can tell stories that revolve around the personalities of our products."
`BUILT TO LAST' TAG
J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, introduced the format with six TV spots aired on CBS during the Winter Olympics. Each featured actor John Corbett on screen narrating stories about people and their cars, and introduced the division's new tag, "Built to last."
Mr. Corbett returns in 13 new commercials, although the spots for Ford trucks will continue using the "Built Ford tough" tag.
In past years, JWT created different-looking ads for each Ford car model and truck. For example, a Mustang coupe spot used last fall was a fast-moving, Americana montage, while a Ranger commercial showed a gorilla driving the compact pickup truck to background music of the Monkees' theme song. Last fall's Escort advertising used rhyming narration.
AD BUDGET FLAT FOR '99
Ford Division's 1999 ad budget "will be about the same, give or take," as calendar 1998, said Ms. Klug, who declined to discuss spending specifics.
The fall media schedule hasn't been finalized.
The brand received $569.9 million in measured media spending in 1997 vs. $533 million in 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
The new ad executions cover a range of emotional situations to reach consumers.
"A pool of communications can do dramatic product demonstrations with more emotion to show how products fit into a person's life," Ms. Klug said.
One spot shows a female owner of a Taurus sedan hugging and kissing her father, mending a long rift. A humorous spot features two women talking in an apartment about how good they look in their boyfriends' Mustangs; as they realize they may be talking about the same man, a male neighbor downstairs tells the Mustang owner he better keep driving.
MUSTANG'S 35TH BIRTHDAY
UniWorld Group, New York, Ford's African-American agency, also created a Mustang spot showing how generations come together around the car, which turns 35 in the '99 model year. Ms. Klug said that spot may run on general-audience TV shows, as did a humorous UniWorld spot for the 1998 Ford Explorer showing an urban cowboy buying diapers.
Zubi Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla., Ford's Hispanic agency, has created a new Escort commercial. Zubi's Mustang spot, tied to the July release of "The Mask of Zorro," also ran on general-audience programming.
"We think the ads portray the exact image we're looking to portray to our customers," said Barry Merrill, an Ohio Ford dealer and chairman of the division's dealer council. Mr. Merrill, who previewed the commercials with other dealers this month, reported the dealer body is happy that the ad messages are consistent with the theme introduced in February.
STAYING THE COURSE
"We commended [Ford and JWT] for staying on that road, despite the temptation to go off and do something else," he said.
Ford Division's sales through July were flat at 1.951 million units vs. 1.954 million a year ago, according to Automotive News. But Ford's F-Series pickup broke a 20-year sales record in July when it sold 81,133 units, up 24.8% from the same month a year ago.