Lincoln's new New York-based ad agency -- it has a name now: Hudson Rouge -- is a big luminous space occupied by empty chairs, empty conference rooms, furniture and accessories all framed by huge picture windows offering million-dollar views of Manhattan, plus a sliver of the Hudson River, to which half of the agency's name refers. Rouge refers to the river that slips past Ford’s huge F-150 plant that also shares that name.
A few of us saw Lincoln’s new agency even before agency employees arrived (they start Dec. 3) to get a look at something else: the new advertising platform -- the largest ever -- for Ford's Lincoln division, now “Lincoln Motor Company.” That's right; in a lot of ways, the brand is hearkening back to its golden days to inform the highly stylized product and brand identity for the future, embodied by cars like the new MKZ.
The campaign hits the digital and traditional road today with a palette of five TV spots including a 60-second anthem and 30-second ads for the MKZ, MKS and MKX vehicles. There is also a huge digital play around culture, style, auteurs, music, industrial design, and film. And the automaker, by the way, will also have a 60-second ad in the Super Bowl.
TV spots show Lincoln's iconic vehicles of yore, and passing images of famous people -- Dean Martin, Clark Gable, among others -- who drove them. The images appear as reflections on the sheet metal of famous Lincoln cars. Ads focus on design elements, with a direct analogy between past features like club doors and those of the new MKZ, such as push-button shifting and the panoramic glass roof. Wistful and dramatic imagery abounds -- a boy watching the launch of a space shuttle, and an eagle swooping along the hood of the car, mirroring the MKZ's avian grill, for instance. TV and print creative generally eschew rapid-action, somewhat “A.D.D.” quick scene changes that are par for the course in luxury and performance car pitches, opting instead for fluid scenes that evanesce from one to the other. Keeping with the luminous theme, even the bas-relief logo suggests a paper sculpture.
"We are trying to mix great notes from the past and present," said Jon Pearce, CCO at Hudson Rouge. He ads that the campaign's acknowledgement of the brand's famous vehicles from its heyday works because the shoppers Lincoln wants to impress have no history, or memory of the automaker, and aren’t dogmatic about a particular luxury marque. "And the time is right for authentic brands: look at the popularity of Woolrich, Pendleton, and Cole Haan. They are both looking back to give people what's cool now." It’s probably worth noting that the agency will likely seek other luxury brands as clients.
Lincoln is also tying online creative to print via a partnership with Fast Company. The branded content in print features artists, musicians, chefs and others whose works and milieus are explored on the new “Hello. Again” site, mirroring the larger theme of the campaign. Lincoln is also revamping Lincoln.com and http://www.lincoln.com/now/ whose layout will be graphic and designed for scalability to tablets and mobile devices with a coffee-table catalogue look. Another set of print ads comprises text on white space, with no images, and provocative themes like “Does the world need another luxury car? Not really,” that discuss the brand and its identity. They begin this week in The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today.