Ford Signs 'American Idol' Winner for Year-End Sale Promo

Cash Back and Financing Offer Not as Bold as Last Year's Program

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Talk about bold moves: Ford Motor Co.'s Ford division has signs "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks not just to sing but to dance his way through a new promotion for its 2006 model-year clearance sale.
Taylor Hicks will sing the song 'Possibilities' for Ford's sales effort.
Taylor Hicks will sing the song 'Possibilities' for Ford's sales effort.

In spots breaking tomorrow that pitch the promotion, Mr. Hicks, who was often derided for his exuberant dance moves on the talent show by judge Simon Cowell, sings and hoofs to a new song, "Possibilities." Ford is a major sponsor of "American Idol."

Print, TV and radio effort
Ford said the promotion, dubbed "Drive on Us," is available in most major markets through July 31, and it will advertise the deal nationally in ads in USA Today and major newsweeklies. A 60-second and 30-second TV and radio will also support the effort from WPP Group's JWT, Detroit.

The deal gives buyers of several Ford models the option of taking cash ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 in lieu of zero-percent financing and free gas up to $1,000. Ford's most fuel-efficient cars, the Escape Hybrid small SUV, and most pickups trucks and SUVs are included in the sale.

Jim Sanfilippo, exec VP of auto consultant AMCI, called the program "pretty aggressive" and the zero-percent financing "pretty generous," considering the bump in interest rates. But he said Ford's incentive program isn't as aggressive as last summer's "Ford Family Plan," mimicked General Motors Corp.'s employee discounts program.

Great attention-getter
Mr. Sanfilippo said using the "American Idol" star should be a great attention-getter for Ford. "Who doesn't like Hicks?" he said. "I think people will enjoy seeing him in these ads."

The automaker said Ford division unit sales last month slipped nearly 3% to 234,655 and are off 3.4% in the first five months of this year to 1.06 million. Sales of the Explorer SUV plunged 27% to 77,205 units through May; the Expedition SUV by 29% to 28,634 units; and the Mustang coupe by 11% to 72,119 units.
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