Ford Has Drivers Swap Cars For A Ford; New Ads Result

Ford, which has been using real people in campaigns like "Fusion Challenge" that compare Ford vehicles against direct competitors, is taking the tactic further in a new effort.

It features "real" people who agreed to eschew their cars to drive a Ford for a week. The campaign, "Swap Your Ride," is also dangling up to $1,000 as a bonus through Oct. 1, on most current-year and 2008 models. The offer is in addition to current incentives, per Ford.

The ad push features people from New York, Dallas, Miami and L.A., who talk about what it was like to try a Ford for a week. According to the company, these consumers thought they were merely doing market research. They were asked before and after their stint with Ford vehicles whether they'd be open to buying a Blue Oval-branded vehicle. Ford says purchase consideration doubled to 80% after the test-drives versus before.

As part of the effort, Team Detroit created a faux market-research company, "In Home Test Drive Experience, LLC" to distance Ford from the research subjects. Ninety subjects--owners of competitive vehicles--were tapped to evaluate one of 11 Ford vehicles. They also conceded to have video crews, directed by documentarian Jessica Yu, tape their experiences, with Ford's real purpose revealed to them after their week-long experience.



The ads are fairly straightforward. One has a test subject looking into the camera--with a slightly befuddled expression--saying, "I'm here to swap out my car today for something completely different, and I have no idea what it is." A voiceover then says: "We didn't tell them we were from Ford; we told them it was ... market research. We didn't tell them what to say." A variety of "just like you" people who got the cars then express their pleasure with Ford's different features. Ads direct people to

According to Ford, JWT Team Detroit turned the footage into a series of 28 30-second ads that broke Tuesday night and will run on network and cable on shows like "Desperate Housewives," "CSI," "Extreme Home Makeover" and "Bones." There will also be Spanish-language ads.

A print component will run in dailies in 25 markets and "USA Today." The campaign also includes Internet and radio elements.

Ford began the direct-competitive approach--which has its risks--late last year, with ads based on video shot at test-drive events for presumably auto-savvy Road & Track Magazine subscribers.

The next iteration, "Ford Challenge," took the same tack, but brought in playwright and film director David Mamet to helm the ads.

Todd Turner of L.A.-based Car Concepts says Ford's strategy is less risky than what GM's Saturn division has been up to in recent months with its "Side by side by side" campaign, which puts Camry and Accord in Saturn showrooms versus the highly regarded Aura sedan.

"This gives Ford more control to pattern and shape the program to take advantage of their products' highlights," he says.

He thinks Ford is benefiting from the program, at least as far as sales go. "Sales of Fusion are flat this year, but it's not a new vehicle, and they have been at 38 days of supply," he says, suggesting that Fusion's level sales this year may represent a supply problem. The company recently launched the new Taurus and is rolling out a crossover version this fall. Turner says that while that competitive efforts like "Swap your ride" may be good for the bottom of the purchase funnel, the company needs to do a national push for Taurus.

Last month, in which sales of Ford branded vehicles were down 16%, the company sold 4,482 Tauruses and 12,511 Fusions. Ford has sold around 14,350 of the new Tauruses year-to-date. "That vehicle needs to be selling 12,000 per month," says Turner. "They need a huge 'blanket-marketing' approach. A national campaign."

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