Ford's 'Drive One' Ads Go for a More Personal Touch

New Phase of JWT Campaign to Feature Customer Testimonials

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DETROIT ( -- Ford Motor Co.'s "Drive One" campaign has helped the brand's perception when it comes to rational reasons for buying, such as safety and durability. But it was lacking on the emotional side, which the automaker is focusing on in a second round of marketing.

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This next phase, which is heavy on TV ads but also uses out-of-home (targeted, interestingly, at Beltway opinion leaders), social media, newspapers and an innovative promotion offering a donation to local schools in exchange for a Ford test drive, breaks Oct. 10.

Clearly, the campaign has done some good: Though sales of Ford brand products in the U.S. slid by 21% to 1.058 million units in the first nine months of 2009, the brand's market share rose to 13.5% from 12.5% during the comparative three quarters, according to Automotive News. The Ford brand's drop was less than the nation's top-selling Toyota brand's 26% dip in sales to 1.099 million units, just some 41,000 units ahead of the Ford brand.

Becky likes the acceleration on her Fusion Hybrid.

But Matt Van Dyke, director-marketing communications for the Ford brand, said research earlier this year found that the initial work featuring company engineers and other staffers "didn't break through enough." So for this go-round, the automaker and its ad agency WPP's JWT Team Detroit, Dearborn, Mich., filmed new Ford owners in California talking about what they liked about their new cars and trucks in a slew of 15-second TV spots. The owners didn't know they were being filmed, but later gave their okay, said Mr. Van Dyke. He described the spots as "optimistic in tone and not corporate-speak."

In the spots, each owner talks about a single feature they like about their new car. Becky likes the acceleration on her Fusion Hybrid. John likes the cool Sync voice-activated music system on his Escape SUV, and Kristen prefers pink among the selection of colors for ambient interior lighting in her Escape.

Not only will the commercials get a lot of play nationally, they will also see heavy spot weight from Ford's regional dealer ad groups, as well as run online. Ford met with employees this week to reveal the new work and gave them eight of the videos to use on their online social networks or blogs.

Team Detroit also created advertorials for individual Ford dealers to use in their local newspapers, and the automaker has been instructing the retailers in how to tap into online social networking sites. Wunderman Team Detroit handles the digital account.

For the promotion, Ford decided to let dealers, rather than a hired vendor, operate fund-raising test drives called 4URSKL. Via the promotion, Ford is offering $20 per drive for a total of up to $6,000 donated to local schools.

Also included is a Hispanic effort that includes integration on Univision's popular "Sábado Gigante." Hispanic women are targeted for test drives on AOL's in an effort from Zubi Advertising, Coral Gables, Fla.

For the out-of-home effort, Ford is targeting opinion leaders in Washington D.C. with a blitz on 60 billboards within Metro Rail stations starting Oct. 12. For 20 days, the boards will feature a different daily message aimed at driving traffic to, Mr. Van Dyke said.

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