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Ford motor co. had a lot on the line when it launched Ford Division's 1997 F-150 pickup, the first major redesign of the truck in 15 years. The F-150 is not just the best-selling model in the F-Series line, but it's been America's perennial best-selling vehicle for more than a decade.

Ford decided to sell the 1997 F-150 side-by-side with the 1996 design.

"There are consumers out there who are slow adapters and progressives, who want to be the first on their block," says Paul Morel, brand manager for Ford trucks, of the strategy.

The 1996 model was marketed regionally and positioned as a value-priced workhorse.

The 1997 model was marketed nationally as "Ford tough" with what Ford says was the most expensive truck ad push in its history. Competitive Media Reporting shows Ford spent $87.6 million.

Ford kicked off the new truck's campaign during the 1996 Super Bowl, to reach its core buyers of male sports enthusiasts. Spots from J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, featured actor Jack Palance, who Mr. Morel says brings positive emotion to the brand.

"The character personifies what the truck is," Mr. Morel says.

Ford was surprised at strong demand for high-end option packages for the 1997 model that included leather seats and CD-players, Mr. Morel says.

F-Series sales jumped nearly 13% last year over 1995, to just over 780,000. Sales were off slightly during 1997's first quarter, but the trucks are still the best-selling Ford truck models and the best-selling U.S. vehicle.

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