Garfield's AdReview: Ford scores a weekend win with game-time F-150 spots

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Why is there football?

There is football to find expression on the gridiron for the drama and dignity and raw beauty of sport. There is football to create mythic heroes with not only feet of clay but, often enough, records of arrest. There is football to give purpose to the American blimp industry.

But mainly there is football-the big-time, nationally televised spectacle that so absorbs us-to sell guy stuff to guys: razors, beer, mutual funds, tortilla chips and, above all, vehicles.

The AdReview staff, dedicated professional that we are, therefore devotes a minimum of seven weekend hours all autumn long to seeing what the automobile industry can come up with. If we happen along the way also to witness the majestic Philadelphia Eagles crushing the pitiful Washington Redskins 27-25, so be it. But mainly we're drawn by the advertising-which, of course, is overwhelmingly dreadful.

Maybe it's a Kia campaign that unaccountably discards its value proposition for ... well, we don't know what for. We didn't get it. Maybe it's absolutely anything by the Buick, Pontiac and Chevrolet motor divisions, which spend about $900 trillion dollars a year to create the visibility of Lamont Cranston. Maybe it's something like the Dodge Truck spot about to break, featuring a men's room misunderstanding about penis length.

We can hardly wait.

Thus is football, that gift to America by the automotive industry, a gift bestowed, insanely, with almost no strings attached. So imagine our surprise when one such advertiser actually used its weekend date with America to persuasively sell its product.

That product is the Ford F-150 truck. The commercials, from J. Walter Thompson, Detroit, are neither clever nor funny nor particularly imaginative. What they are, however, are arresting arguments for purchasing an F-150.

"A truck like this isn't built in a factory," says the grave announcer over a drumming, martial-sounding orchestral theme as an endless train of Ford trucks, in various stages of assembly, snakes its way through city, country and amber waves of grain. "It's built in the farms and in the fields, concrete streets and crowded construction sites that map the landscape of an entire country. Because when Ford builds the new F-150, there are promises to keep. And only one truck earned the right to be the next Ford F-150."

Then the truck comes skidding at you at a 45-degree angle, car-ad style. Whoa! Nice-looking truck.

Other spots, meanwhile, fill you in on all the pertinent specs: payload, horsepower, torque, cab noise, frame and suspension-all, evidently, tops in their class. And, gee, if it's already the top-selling full-size pick-up, and it's been completely redesigned inside and out, it must be a damn fine truck. Mustn't it?

Were we cheated by the conspicuous lack of hilarious punch lines and genitalia references? Nah. We got all of the entertainment we needed from the football game Ford was kind enough to underwrite for us at enormous expense. Like we said, that's why there is football.

And, for those who seem to have missed the point, that's also why there is advertising.


J. Walter Thompson, Detroit

Ad Review Rating: 3 stars

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