On the offensive
"It's time to go on the offensive," said Mary Lou Quesnell, marketing director of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury in North America. She and other Ford executives declined to discuss specific spending details at an employee event today to unveil the brand's new "Bold Moves" umbrella ad and marketing campaign, but said the increase would carry through 2007.
Ford, the carmaker's best-selling brand, spent $894 million in measured media in 2005, a 10% drop from 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
The bold plan includes an integrated two-year pact with Fox's "American Idol" and two-time Grammy winner Kelly Clarkson, whose new song, "Go," will be featured in ads breaking tonight during the show's broadcast. Ford will also sponsor the singer's 24-stop concert tour and has secured rights to allow other artists to sing "Go." The ads are themed "Bold Moves," replacing the 18-month-old "Built for the Road Ahead."
View from the inside
In June, Ford will activate its boldmoves.com Web site. It will carry two-minute videos of Ford staffers talking about their jobs, show internal disputes as they unfold and offer real-life stories about firefighters and explorers, said Martin Collins, executive director-marketing at the automaker. Radical Media is currently roaming Ford's office and engineering buildings in Dearborn, Mich., to interview insiders. Ford hopes to build traffic to the site with a roadblock on major portals such as Yahoo. "We're going to be more proactive in shaping consumer attitudes," said Mr. Collins.
Longtime Ford agency JWT, Detroit, part of WPP Group, also helped the marketer develop a reality TV series -- tentatively titled "Made in Detroit" -- that would let 15 contestants design their personal American dream cars. Ms. Quesnell told Advertising Age she expects the show to air on a cable TV network, though none has signed on.
Ms. Quesnell said a team of about a dozen people, including Mr. Collins and JWT President George Rogers, plotted the strategy. All ideas were measured on the "Bold-O-Meter," a one-to-10-numbered wheel that included items such as emotional consumer connections, new ways of marketing and integrated marketing.
The team had already conducted and studied extensive consumer research with owners and non-owners that revealed seven "lust-for-life" groups of Ford customers. The groups were defined by attitudes and values, not by demographics, which was Ford's former marketing approach, Ms. Quesnell said.
Rethinking media planning
Ford will also change the way it plans regional media for its 62 dealer ad groups by centralizing planning operations instead of letting each region follow its own disjointed media path, Mr. Collins said. "We need to plan together," he said. The dealer groups spend most of their co-op dollars on local TV, but that will change. "We are increasing our digital spend because we know as consumers get closer to purchases they are using the Web a whole hell of lot."
JWT, which works with more than 50 of the dealer ad groups, handles media planning. Mr. Collins said details of how media plans will be handled haven't been finalized.
Today's announcement immediately preceded Ford's release of its U.S. April vehicle sales, which declined by 9% to 214,824 units compared to last April. But in the first four months of 2006, Ford division said it sold 36% fewer vehicles, or 831,724 units vs. a year ago.