Ford Talks Tech With Global Focus Campaign

by , Feb 24, 2011, 4:45 PM
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Fifty. Count 'em, fifty TV spots will air worldwide over the next few months as part of Ford's effort to promote its new Focus. But numbers can be a bit deceiving. Like the car they are promoting, the spots trade heft for flexibility. As Sir Martin Sorrell, the head of WPP, whose biggest client happens to be Ford, explained, the campaign is not about taking the "shock and awe" approach of big ads and anthem spots, but of creating quick, lasting impressions about specific vehicle elements.

The automaker and its worldwide group of agencies under the leadership of Global Team Detroit -- WPP's go-to agency for Ford -- have created a roster of mostly 15- and 20-second ads, each one focusing explicitly on one technological feature of the new vehicle. And just as the new Focus sedan is the first from the automaker that evinces its One Ford strategy of making global vehicles (versus different vehicles for different regions), the campaign itself is kind of a One Ford marketing effort. Like the car, it's essentially one creative platform whose array of creative executions will be used in all markets, with minor variations for language and feature-to-market relevance.

Sorrell and Ford's group VP of global marketing, Jim Farley, spoke about the campaign and the agency-client relationship that birthed it in a kind of "Inside the Actor's Studio" format (minus James Lipton) on Thursday. Only a smattering of press was in attendance in the auditorium at the Chocolate Factory, Ogilvy's new headquarters on New York's west side. There were as many Ford brass, including director of global marketing Elena Ford, Ford's social media strategy chief Scott Monty, and the leadership of Team Detroit.

Toby Barlow, Global Team Detroit's chief creative officer, and George Rogers, president of Team Detroit, said that Ford actually hasn't launched a new vehicle with an anthem spot for quite a while, preferring to pre-launch with digital/social efforts like Fiesta Movement or, in the case of Focus, the Global Test Drive program.

They say such an approach is especially pertinent for Focus because the car was designed to be as much about its cargo of technological accoutrements -- things like built-in Wifi, automatic parking, and an engine that turns itself off at lights -- as mobility. Rogers says the product, not the cultural context, is what counts. "People in India, in China, in the U.S. all are interested in the latest technology."

Farley said the biggest enabler for the campaign "was our bet that traditional small car buyers would embrace technology, whether it's the WiFi hotspot, or the car's ability to park itself, the blind spot monitor, or Sync, which for the first time will be offered in Europe with this vehicle. Technology had to be one central message."

He said the regional flavor is being applied via digital elements. "People are spending more time with it so it makes sense to make it regional and local. We started talking early on about where the complexity in this campaign should be, and we decided as a team that digital is it," he says.

The TV spots, which were shot in South Africa and debut March 1 in the U.S. during Fox's "American Idol," highlight 14 technologies. They include the car's active grill shutters, active park assist (which uses sonar to park the car), aerodynamics and how the design is not at odds with aesthetics; the car's start-stop function that shuts the motor down at stoplights; the Focus as a mobile WiFi hotspot; and Active City stop, which helps the car stop when, say, a car pulls in front of it.

After the U.S. the ads roll into Europe, the Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, then East Asian markets.

Said Farley, "With this car and this launch, the most important thing is providing a simple explanation of the product and the technology. Particularly as oil nears the $100 oil price, technology elements are becoming more important. It resonates with consumers all around the world."

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