US:Ford's bold move: Its own reality TV show
Ford's bold move: Its own reality TV show
Top dealers get peek at series automaker is pitching with contestants designing hot cars.
Bryce Hoffman / The Detroit News
DEARBORN -- Ford Motor Co. -- hoping to tap into a popular television programming trend -- is planning to produce a reality show in which contestants work with Ford designers to produce a hot new concept car.
The automaker showed top U.S. dealers a teaser of the program at a dealer meeting Wednesday in Dearborn, which was called to unveil the company's new advertising strategy, dubbed "Bold Moves."
The theme of the show will be "designing a dream car." The teaser was produced by Ford and its ad agency, the J. Walter Thompson Co.
Ford intends to shop the program to networks, according to dealers and company officials.
Ford spokesman Jim Cain confirmed the dealer meeting Wednesday, but declined to discuss the new campaign. Sources in the company said the plan was shared with dealers to demonstrate that "Bold Moves" is more than just a snappy slogan.
Jim Sanfilippo, an analyst with Automotive Marketing Con******ts Inc., said the show is a good way to convey Ford's new message to today's consumers.
He said reality shows resonate with a wide audience, adding that Ford's foray into this field is an example of the sort of bold moves the company is talking about.
"It's a very cool idea," Sanfilippo said. "It's a way to engage the audience in a way that they can they can identify it."
The "Bold Moves" campaign represents one of the most ambitious marketing efforts by the automaker in recent years.
Ford will kick off television ads for the campaign Tuesday night during "American Idol" on Fox.
The first commercial -- called "Anthem" -- will feature a new song performed for Ford by Kelly Clarkson, a pop star and the first American Idol winner, called "Go."
It will feature images of average Americans living life to the fullest. A series of similarly themed ads will follow.
Dealers were given a sneak peek at some of the new ads that will be featured in the campaign.
One shows a father teaching his son to drive a Mustang GT. After the son peels out, the father admonishes him that the car is "not a toy." Then the father smiles and asks, "Wanna do it again?"
Another ad shows a mother and daughter standing on the edge of a cliff. The woman asks her daughter to trust her. Then they leap into the water about 20 feet below.
Ford has asked dealers to begin preparing major local and regional ad campaigns to support the new marketing effort.
"I came away really excited," said Jerry Reynolds, a major Ford dealer in suburban Dallas and former chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council. "This is a whole new Ford Motor Co."
Ford told dealers the new campaign is aimed at millions of Americans it has identified as potential customers through extensive focus groups. The target customers cut across demographic lines but share a belief in hard work, family, patriotism and enjoying an adventurous life.
Dealers said the ads were notable because the people and their lifestyles were featured more than the cars.
"They gave me a chill," Reynolds said. "I have never seen anything quite like this."
Ford's U.S. sales have dropped 2.3 percent this year and it's been forced to overhaul its sales and marketing operations to reverse a 10-year market share slump.
Ford lost $1.2 billion in the first quarter of 2006, largely because of continuing problems in North America.
In addition to the Bold Moves campaign, Ford plans to play up its American roots when designing and engineering future models.
Sanfilippo, who spoke with some of the dealers that were invited to Wednesday's event, said the conclave was an important step in realizing the new vision for the company that is being crafted by Mark Fields, president of Ford's Americas group.
"He declared the mission and identified the strategy," Sanfilippo said. "One of things Ford has always suffered from is a lack of alignment. What he's doing is rearranging the fundamentals and making sure that all the stakeholders understand it and embrace it."
Reality shows such as "American Idol," "The Apprentice" and "Survivor" have become some of network television's most popular programming, drawing millions of viewers a week.
Ford is already one of two principal sponsors of "American Idol," which means its products are featured prominently in the hit show.
But reality television is not without its risks for automakers. On a recent episode of NBC's "The Apprentice," contestants were tasked with demonstrating the new Chevrolet Tahoe for a group of General Motors Corp. dealers. One team did such a bad job that dealers went home angry. To make matters worse, an Internet tie-in that allowed viewers to create their own commercials for the new sport utility vehicle was used to lampoon the automaker.
Other automakers are trying some bold advertising moves of their own. Honda Motor Co. is sponsoring a Web-based reality show to promote its new Fit hatchback. Six five-minute episodes have already been produced, with the debut scheduled for May 15.
Toyota Motor Corp. has partnered with Fox to create a spinoff of the network's popular drama "Prison Break" for mobile telephones. Toyota will sponsor the cutting-edge production, which will also feature Toyota products. Toyota will also sponsor content for an Internet site devoted to the show and will be the exclusive advertiser for several episodes of the television program.
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.....