Ford unit unbound by limits

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Ford Motor Co. is further expanding its boundaries with a quarterly magazine for its Ford Division that's part of a growing custom-media strategy covering everything from TV programming to publishing and the Internet.

"We are getting a lot smarter about who our customers are, more robust than just demographics," said Jan Klug, VP-global marketing at Ford. "In general, one of the things we're trying to do across all our brands is to start from who is the audience for the product and what media do they consume. You connect that with what you know about your brand." She added that Ford will announce more custom-media projects later this year, but declined to reveal them.

Ms. Klug said Ford is motivated by changes in society's media habits and the explosion of options that can be significantly cheaper than traditional TV ad buys. "You have to keep trying things to see what hits. You can become numb to the sea of options."

In September, the Ford Division will introduce a quarterly magazine titled "No Boundaries" after the advertising tag line for its sport-utility lineup. The move follows a TV show created for Fox last summer; a reality show under the same title is planned for the WB network later this year.

The magazine, coming in September, will chronicle outdoor adventures, travel and offer trip deals to owners. The premiere issue will contain 84 pages with a mix of roughly 30% advertising, some from advertisers outside Ford. A full-page ad in the first issue will be $10,000.

100,000 TO START

Ziff Davis Media's custom-media division is producing the magazine. Apache Ridge Productions, Santa Fe, N.M., is the creative consultant on the project for WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, Ford's ad agency.

The first issue will be mailed to 100,000 recent Ford SUV buyers, with circulation planned to grow by 50,000 per issue per quarter to 450,000. "This wasn't conceived to be an owners' magazine, but that's who we're going to initially," said Doug Scott, SUV group manager at Ford Division. Prospects will also get the magazine.

"I'm not saying it couldn't be sold on the newsstand," said Mr. Scott, adding that Ford will evaluate whether the effort is successful after it studies, among other factors, the relationship between readers' brand loyalty and sales.

Ford's first custom-program outing, last summer's show on Fox, produced a little better than a one rating, said Curt Jaksen, group communications director at JWT, who has been working on custom-media programs. "The ratings met our expectations," he said, for the show that aired on four consecutive Sundays last June from 4 to 5 p.m. EDT. The program showed three vignettes of outdoor adventures, plus a segment of participants in the Explorer Sport Trac Challenge, an extreme-sport competition for Ford's pickup-SUV.

JWT created, with Lions Gate Entertainment, Ford Division's new reality TV show that debuts on the WB Network late this year. For the show, 15 contestants will be eliminated as they travel north on a nature-bound trip from Vancouver. They'll sometimes drive Ford SUVs during the 13 episodes. Ford gets two minutes of commercials during the hour-long show and plans four 30-second spots for its SUVs in the show, Mr. Jaksen said.

Earlier this year, Ford Motor teamed up with the National Geographic Society for a one-year partnership that resulted in a 26-part TV series called EarthPulse. It bowed globally in the spring and airs in the U.S. on the National Geographic Channel. Each half-hour episode in the series studies environmental issues in a combination of features and real-life adversity challenges. WPP's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, and Dearborn, Mich., is handling print ads for the program.

Ford Motor reported a second-quarter loss of $752 million last week on global revenues of $42.3 billion. That compares to a profit of $2.53 billion on revenues of $44.5 billion for the same period a year ago. The automaker said the drop-off was mostly due to its voluntary recall of 13 million Firestone-branded tires in May.

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