Real Owners Get Real Surprise In Ford Campaign

Ford

Ford has introduced a third chapter of its three-year-old "Drive One" campaign, one that uses real owners of Ford vehicles to talk about the brand and the products.

The first iteration of "Drive One," which launched in 2008, had employees -- engineers, designers and product developers -- talking the various Ford car technologies they work on. Last year's "Drive One" effort comprised some sixty 15-second spots featuring 40 real owners who talked about a particular feature of their Ford.

The new effort, also comprising 15-second ads, shows a series of real customers driving up to a conference center, being met by a Ford staffer who escorts them over to what appears to be a conference room, where -- they assume -- they will have an intimate conversation about their new vehicles. Except when the door opens, they find they are the center of attention for a big, frantic press scrum. The shot freezes on their faces with text: "Really Surprised!" They take a seat in front of a microphone as the reporters shout questions like "Did fuel efficiency effect your decision to buy this car?" and "What is Ford doing right?"

Thomais Zaremba, Ford car communications manager, said the ads were shot in Van Nuys, Calif., and the participants all thought they were heading in to be part of a new-owners focus group.

She says the campaign has progressed to reflect consumer sentiment about the corporate voice in advertising. "For the second version of the campaign we found that people were no longer moved by anthemic corporate campaigns -- they were looking for something credible, something they could believe," she says. "That was the natural transition to letting the customer speak for us."

Zaremba says the company could have continued the second chapter of the campaign in which consumers talk about what they like about their cars, but the customer testimonial as the voice of the brand has become a trend. "When we first did that there weren't a lot of others using the customer's voice. But as we stepped back last year and analyzed the media landscape we saw there were a lot of people using that approach." But she says the company wanted to keep the customer's voice central to the campaign, "so we felt we had to be much more creative."

The company over the past weekend launched the first four of an initial raft of 20 of the new 15-second press conference-themed ads. The owners in them are all "relatively new to Ford," says Zaremba. "We felt they could express their enthusiasm for the brand because we want to talk about what is surprising about Ford to the market."

Zaremba says there is still a lingering perception that Ford is principally a truck company. The campaign does talk more about cars, but she says all of Ford's vehicles -- including Explorer and F-150 -- are spotlighted. "It's really about what is surprising about Ford, so even the spot with the F-150 pickup is about EcoBoost, and fuel economy, so it's a very different twist on the F-Series."

After debuting on the NHL Playoffs this past weekend, the ads will roll into Ford's normal media buy on broadcast, cable and prime time. "And we will continue to rotate in fresh work; we plan to shoot a second round of production because as we produced [the first round] we were just releasing the new Focus, so we didn't have a lot of Focus owners to call on," says Zaremba.

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