The Ford ads focus on the Windstar minivan and Explorer and Expedition sport-utility vehicles, targeting a wide demographic of 35-to-50-year-olds, including parents with young children.
"We feel this is an opportunity for us," said Tom Grill, marketing manager for Ford Division in California. "We feel no other car manufacturer has made an effort to speak to them in their own language."
Pancom International, Los Angeles, created TV and newspaper ads in three languages -- Chinese, Korean and Pilipino. The advertising also features people representing those countries.
The ads will appear on a spot basis in Asian-language cable news programs and in Asian-language newspapers in the state throughout 1999. Ford declined to reveal spending.
Although the majority of immigrant Asian-Americans speak both English and their native language, they prefer to do business in their native tongue, Mr. Grill said. Ford has set up an 800-number consumer hot line manned by operators fluent in the three Asian languages.
Ford is the first car marketer to produce specific creative for the Asian population in the U.S., Mr. Grill said. Competitors that have marketed to Asians merely dub their English-language spots, he said.
Ford plans to sponsor three separate events tied to each of the three Asian target groups. The brand also offered training to its California dealers on how to properly address this market, though some dealers have had Asian-language-speaking sales staff for several years.
Ford conducted six months of research into the Asian market that uncovered "certain nuances" in the group's buying habits, Mr. Grill said. The only finding he would reveal is that the target audience urged Ford to hire separate talent for the commercials because Filipinos look different from Chinese or Koreans.
Penney's also has increased the number of promotions and the kinds of media it is using to reach Asians, said a spokeswoman for the retailer.
The company is using print ads, free-standing inserts and radio spots in both its new and old markets.
Intertrend, Torrance, Calif., handles Penney's Asian-American advertising.
Rival Sears, Roebuck & Co. previously has held one-day sales in its stores in Asian communities during certain holidays, such as the moon festival, offering 10% off with ads in Asian-language newspapers.
Kang & Lee, with offices in New York and Los Angeles, has handled Sears' Asian-American advertising for four years. Young & Rubicam recently purchased the shop.
One problem for retailers in addressing the market, said Intertrend President Julia Huang, is U.S. perceptions of Asians as bargain hunters.
"There's nothing more frightening [to retailers] than a Vietnamese with a