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Controversial Country Musician Toby Keith to Promote Trucks

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DETROIT ( -- Controversial country singer Toby Keith has been signed as a new pitchman for
Photo: AP
Country singer Toby Keith has written a song for his Ford commercials.

Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division in Dearborn, Mich.

Mr. Keith portrays himself as a "Ford truck man" in the lyrics of a new song he wrote specifically to perform in new Ford TV spots.

'Fits our brand image'
A Ford spokeswoman said the company is well aware of the singer's recent flap with ABC, but that the incident "doesn't change the fact that as a third-generation Ford truck owner, he fits our brand image."

Mr. Keith, whose personal Web site identifies him as an "outlaw country star," engaged in a public confrontation with ABC earlier this summer after the network dropped an invitation for him to appear in a 4th of July special.

In a June 13 story, USA Today reported that ABC show host Peter Jennings declined to allow Mr. Keith to perform his post-Sept. 11 song, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, (The Angry American)," which celebrates the U.S. invasion and bombing of Afghanistan. Its lyrics include the lines:

You'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A,
Cause we'll put a boot in your ass,
It's the American way.

'Not from the U.S.'
Mr. Keith subsequently charged ABC with censorship and criticized Mr. Jennings, who he said "is not from the U.S." Mr. Jennings is a Canadian. ABC issued statements saying that it was unable to have Mr. Keith on the show because of scheduling conflicts.

The honky-tonk singer's new album, Unleashed, containing the same song, was listed as Billboard's No. 1 selling album in America imediately after it was released last month.

The proposal for Ford to join in a partnership with Mr. Keith was put forward by WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, Detroit. JWT is the Ford Division's agency of record.

As part of the new deal, Mr. Keith will appear in Ford ads for TV, radio, print and the Internet.

Regional airing
Terms of the contract weren't disclosed. A spokeswoman said the campaign will be for regional dealer ad groups, breaking on TV in Southern California this fall.

Ford Division previously had a deal with country star Alan Jackson, who also appeared in the automaker's ads. Ford's spokeswoman said the marketer's contract with Mr. Jackson, which started in early 1997, expired in March 1999, although Ford was allowed to continue running ads featuring Mr. Jackson until September 2000.

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