Ford makes leap from bad boy to family friend

PTC takes automaker off 'worst-advertiser' list, moves it to 'best' ranking

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Want to get off the Parents Television Council's "worst advertisers" list? Buy "American Idol."

Ford Motor Co. last year resided alongside fellow automakers Toyota, Volkswagen, DaimlerChrysler and Nissan on the PTC's list of the nation's worst advertisers. The list is based on how often marketers air spots on "wholesome, family-oriented" shows vs. programs containing "sexually graphic, violent or profane material."

Ford's sponsorship of squeaky-clean "American Idol" appeared to help it make the leap from "worst" to "best," although that can't be the only explanation, since it was a major sponsor of "Idol" in 2005. But the "Idol" effect can't be dismissed, as another long-term sponsor of the program, Coca-Cola Co., topped the PTC's "best" list, rising from No. 8 last year.

Melissa Caldwell, the PTC's senior director-programs, said Ford switched lists after a drop in spending on red-lighted shows outside "Idol."

"It's not uncommon for companies on our 'worst' list to no longer be on the list because they no longer rank in the top, but it's very unusual for a company to go from one list to the other," she said.

Sprint and Pepsi, two of last year's "worst," fell off the lists entirely. J.M. Smucker and Merck & Co., among last year's "best," dropped off too.

Ford was the only car company to redeem itself. "We appreciate the recognition," said Marty Collins, executive director-marketing for Ford.

Joining the other autos on this year's "worst" list are Target, GlaxoSmithKline, American Express, Apple, and Circuit City.

"Our brands advertise using a wide variety of programming to reach the diverse and broad audiences that make up the American public," said Jason Vines, VP-Chrysler Group Communications.

Ryndee S. Carney, a GM spokeswoman, said the company's media placement "is aimed at ensuring GM advertises on programming consistent and compatible with the image of our brands and our business needs."

contributing: jean halliday
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