FORD SECURES $50 MIL-PLUS IN OUTDOOR SPACE: HUGE PACT WITH OUTDOOR SYSTEMS SOLVES SHORT-TERM BUYING DILEMMA

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Ford Motor Co. has teamed up with Outdoor Systems, the largest U.S. out-of-home operator, for a multiyear ad deal worth more than $50 million.

The contract gives Ford and all its brands, including Jaguar and Mazda, more than 100 outdoor spectaculars in prime spots in at least 20 major markets.

LANDING ON PRIME BOARDS

Dave Ropes, director of corporate advertising at Ford's integrated marketing group, said the deal solves a problem for the automaker, which typically has had problems getting key locations for its usual short-term outdoor buys.

"We couldn't preplan very long in advance, so we'd have to buy multiple boards of multiple sizes but not in prime locations," he said. "We could only buy based on availability because our needs were short term."

The number of boards will increase over time, reaching more than 100 by Jan. 1. An undisclosed number are still under contract, said Mark Kaline, broadcast media director on Ford's corporate Central Media staff.

COUGAR 1ST IN LINE

Ford and its car brands spent $183,000 last year in outdoor advertising, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The 1999 Mercury Cougar will be the first brand to take advantage of the new contract, via an undisclosed number of locations in July.

Messrs. Ropes and Kaline worked closely with Ford Motor Media, the J. Walter Thompson Co. subsidiary in Detroit dedicated to buying media for Ford.

AGREEMENT RARE

Such a deal is rare for the auto industry, said Wally Kelly, senior VP of Outdoor Systems.

"Some car companies buy individual markets long-term, but not nationally," he said.

Separately, Ford inked a one-year, multimedia contract with News Corp. starting this fall on its cable, network and Internet properties.

That deal includes exclusive sponsorship on TV specials and possibly vehicle placements on shows.

It also involves all brands under the Ford umbrella.

"The importance of this is it gave us the opportunity to package all the [Fox] inventory into one package" for Ford brands to choose from, said Bob Mancini, senior partner-executive director of Ford Motor Media.

News Corp.'s younger target audience appealed to Ford, he added.

"The whole media landscape is changing so much," he said. "Network's share is down, cable's is up."

Ford's Mercury brand, which used Fox as its exclusive network to launch the new Cougar in early May, also cited the age of its audience.

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