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Been driven by a print umbrella campaign lately? Ford Motor Co. has, and has ridden among the most outstanding print campaigns in the past decade. It nailed down the No. 1 spot in 1994 ahead of such sexy competition as Guess? jeans and Calvin Klein. And it's guaranteed a top 10 slot for '95.

But most impressive still is Ford's length of run-12 years in a row now, far ahead of any other U.S. automaker including Lexus, the only other car campaign to appear within the top 10 for two or more consecutive years.

No other U.S. automaker has even tried this concept of an umbrella campaign to cover all the nameplates. The idea in the auto category was exported here by Toyota in 1974-"You asked for it, you got it, Toyota." It was quickly followed by "Datsun saves."

Ford, at that time, was grappling with image problems so severe that the carmaker went out of its way not to associate itself with its own nameplates-1970's Thunderbird ads didn't even mention Ford. This attitude changed in 1980 when Ford found itself proud enough of its innovations to launch "If you can see tomorrow" (Wells, Rich, Greene's Ford corporate campaign) and followed it up with "Have you driven a Ford lately?" as the umbrella for all nameplates, via J. Walter Thompson USA in 1982, and "Quality is Job 1" for corporate. Today, "Have You driven a Ford lately?" is the best recognized of all auto slogans while "Quality is Job 1" is No. 3.

"'Quality is job one' further consolidates the corporate umbrella for the brand," said Joe Schulte, managing partner at Wells Rich Greene BDDP, Dearborn, Mich., the agency responsible for the campaign. "It is more than what Toyota and Datsun did in the 1970s."

Hal Augustine, Ford's corporate advertising manager, attributed the campaign's success to "a bit of luck and a bit of skill." But he advised the timid to avoid umbrella campaigns, saying, "The secret is commitment and the consistency. If you can't do both in terms of budget, message and media, don't bother with either."

Mr. Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests. Write him at 107 E. 31st St., New York 10016, or fax him at (212) 689-0210. Campaign Clout reports on consumer response to current advertising.

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