Until last year, Ford had never developed a unifying brand idea for its cars the way it had with “Built Ford Tough” for its trucks. Now, with “Ford by Design,” there’s a unifying idea for Ford’s car line. To be honest, there had been no need for such a thing back when a Taurus was its own brand and Mustang wouldn’t go near it. But now, after several years of serious product-development work, including a concerted effort to develop a design language across all products, it was clearly time to tie it all together. And the automaker did so with a campaign that presented the implicit idea that Ford cars make a statement beyond what’s under the hood, a statement about fashion, color, style and aesthetics.
The “By Design” effort, by agency group Team Detroit, included a new look to the iconic Ford script as part of a digital-centric campaign featuring short-form videos and ads that could be mixed and matched like color tiles. And colorful they are, in a minimalist Bauhaus way, with each car — Focus Electric and RS, Fusion and Mustang — getting a distinct tagline and color scheme, wrapped up with the ribbon of the Ford script. Even the TV ads had a stackable feel; they came in 15-second bites meant to be played back to back.
The overriding visual idea was quick, easy to grasp and assertive: A spot for the Focus Electric compact showed an electric car-charging kiosk, alone in the desert, with a red Focus electric car zooming up and fishtailing right up to the obelisk-like facility. The driver gets out, removes the plug-in dispenser, and inserts it into the Focus. Cut to the stylized Ford script and voiceover: “Charged Up, By Design.”
The ad for Mustang, in collaboration with Ford’s African-American agency of record, UniWorld Group, shows a model strolling past a yellow Mustang with a mike stand. She drops it behind the car and positions the old-school mike just behind the exhaust. The car revs up, and the camera pulls back so we see the car is in front of a wall of speakers amplifying the engine sound. “Powerful, By Design,” says the V.O. Another unique aspect is that the 15-second ads were designed to run back to back in a single, 30-second, ad pod. Plus, the automaker let consumers get in the game, using social media to encourage people to submit their take on custom-designed billboards featuring Ford cars. Ford picked the winners and hoisted their designs onto billboards in their cities.