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Ford uses Stones to start up sales

Automaker's new TV commercial debuting New Year's Day features band's upbeat tune

Tuesday, December 31, 2002
By Mark Truby / The Detroit News
Robin Buckson / The Detroit News

DEARBORN -- It may be only rock 'n' roll, but Ford Motor Co. certainly likes it.

Looking for a New Year's jump-start, Ford has purchased the rights to the Rolling Stones' song "Start Me Up" for an advertising blitz that will begin on Jan. 1, only seconds after the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" die down. The company is expected to announce the deal today.

Ford plans to debut a 30-second commercial featuring "Start Me Up" and the brand's entire car, pickup truck and sport utility vehicle lineup as close to midnight as possible on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," according to company officials.

The Ford ads mark the first time "Start Me Up" has been licensed to an automotive company, and only the second time the song has been licensed for commercial use.

Microsoft used the Stones song as a centerpiece of its massive ad campaign that accompanied the rollout of its Windows 95 software.

While Ford hasn't revealed how much it spent for the rights to the song, the price tag is probably enough to make a grown man cry. Microsoft reportedly paid $4 million for the rights in the mid-1990s.

Major corporations, automakers in particular, are increasingly turning to popular music to pitch their products. Toyota's "Everyday People" ad campaign was derived from the Sly and the Family Stone tune of the same name. And General Motors' Chevrolet created a well-received campaign around Bob Seger's 1984 hit "Like a Rock."

Led Zepplin's "Rock and Roll" is the anthem for Cadillac's new restyled product line.

Some fans of the beloved bands and their music have railed against what they consider the crass commercialism of using iconic tunes to hawk products. ****'s use of The Beatles' song "Revolution" spurred perhaps the biggest backlash.

The Rolling Stones first released "Start Me Up" as the opening track of their multiplatinum-selling 1981 album "Tattoo You."

The seminal British rock group is popular internationally among baby boomers as well as twentysomethings -- the consumers Ford needs to successfully reach if it hopes to reverse a sales slide.

"'Start Me Up' really gets your blood pumping," said Steve Lyons, Ford Division president. "We picked it to send the message that Ford's back."

During the first two weeks of January, the spot will air during every major college football bowl game, the NFL playoffs and highly rated prime-time television shows, including "NYPD Blue," "The Practice," "60 Minutes" and "The Simpsons."

Six other versions of the ad are planned, and they will air regionally to support the full Ford product line, the company's SUVs and pickups and individual Ford products, including Focus, Ranger and Taurus. Radio versions of the ads also will be produced.

The campaign was produced by the Detroit office of J. Walter Thompson U.S.A. Inc.

Ford also plans to debut a new ad campaign for its blue oval-badged cars and trucks in 2003. The campaign's pitch line, "Look Again," urges buyers to reconsider Ford products.

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My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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