CYBERCRITIQUE: Ford's attempt at damage control packs no punch

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MARKETER: Ford Motor Co.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Yahoo! News and elsewhere

CRITIQUE: Our would-be fearless leader Dubya is certainly noting now that the media can be an ornery bunch. Some of them are even major league, um, jerks. But for the most part, they're only bush leaguers trying to make a living by telling stories.

Sometimes those crazy media folks print things about your company (or your presidential candidacy) that you'd rather not read. Sometimes they don't take the spin that companies and candidates would like with the facts they're given. For instance, we don't see many stories about people who drive Ford Explorers who have had no trouble with their Firestone tires. No, the media is focused on the doom and gloom.

But the Net allows anyone to be a publisher; public relations wings of corporate Web sites are some of the best-tended areas, in general.

Ford Motor Co., in heavy damage control mode, is running banners on sites such as Yahoo! News directing people looking for information on the tire recall to a Ford-run subsite. The ad is simple and classy looking, almost innocuous. But it might as well say: "Don't read the coverage by the trusted media site you've come to. Come read it right from us. Our tires might not roll, but boy our PR folks can still spin."

The banners lack the ingredient that, as our analog colleague Bob Garfield astutely pointed out, should be the centerpiece of any message Ford is sending now: "The public expects an expression of corporate concern," he wrote.

These banners show Ford's concern: Give you its message, undiluted and unapologetically. That is where this notion of corporate "news" falls flat for Ford.

WHO CREATED IT: J. Walter Thompson, Detroit.

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