Company Chairman to Star in TV Ads

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DETROIT ( -- Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford, who today announced a global third-quarter pre-tax loss of $1.3 billion for the automaker, will star in the company’s first corporate-brand campaign since 2002.
Photo: AP
Ford Motor Co. Chairman Bill Ford will star in the company's TV commercials. Click to see larger photo.

WPP agencies
Breaking tonight on national cable and broadcast TV networks, the integrated blitz was handled by two WPP Group agencies, Ogilvy & Mather Detroit in Dearborn Mich., and Penn Schoen & Berland Associates, Washington. The push includes print, radio and online.

The campaign’s “Innovation” theme reiterates the Ford heir’s recent speech on the topic. “Innovation will be the compass that guides this company going forward,” Mr. Ford says in both the 60- and 30-second spots. He adds that Ford has “dramatically recommitted” to hybrids, technology and safety.

The “innovation” strategy is the brainchild of Ford Motor’s new top public-relations insiders, Charlie Holleran, VP-chief communications officer, and Joshua Flake, director-strategic communications, based in Washington, said two executives close to the car maker. Mr. Flake declined to comment on the “innovation” strategy. A Ford spokesman denied the two recent hires developed that direction, saying it came directly from Mr. Ford.

Consultant criticism
Jim Sanfilippo, exec VP of Omnicom Group’s AMCI, an auto consultant, said Mr. Ford risks talking about these topics prematurely. “Is it prudent telling everyone what you’re going to do two years before you do it?” He also questioned how the chairman’s stated intentions in the ads square with the company’s current reality. The corporate ads should instead focus on Ford’s current vehicle accomplishments, such as its Escape hybrid sport utility vehicle, Mr. Sanfilippo said.

This morning Ford announced a $1.1 billion pretax loss in its crucial North American auto operations, citing lower net pricing, higher warranty costs and an unfavorable model mix. The marketer’s product lineup is heavily skewed to big pickups and SUVs, sales of which have plummeted in the wake of higher gas prices.

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