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Message to Ford: Show us the Car

Here we go again. Another advertisement from a car company that shows us everything but the car. Ford Motor Co. has launched a new advertising and marketing campaign entitled “Bold Moves.” The launch spot for television has a series of bold people who do things like skate boarding in a deep half pipe. Then we see a woman who shaves off all of her hair, a rodeo rider jumping on the prize bull and a young guy leaving the comfort of the country for bustling Manhattan. Ford’s ad agency JWT Inc. then attempts to tug our heartstrings with such inspirational lines as “Bold Overcomes” and “Bold Never Quits.” All the while, Kelly Clarkson is singing her anthemic song “Go.”

This is not only Ford’s attempt to gin up some chutzpa to its namesake brand, but it wants us to believe its buyers are real Americans and risk takers. They are gutsy people who will go out on a limb, not bland suburban types. They engage in cool hobbies. They’re like none of us.

Here’s a wild idea. Maybe I’m going out on a limb with this bold statement. But how about showing us the car? I’ve seen so many car companies who are trying to tell us who their buyers are. What we really want to know is what their vehicles are all about. Ford tells me that the forthcoming television ads will show the cars. In fairness, an older TV ad for the Mercury Milan has some great action and beauty shots of the car. And the Bold Moves campaign print ads definitely do. But in this first spot, which aired May 2 during “American Idol,” you only get brief glimpses of the automobiles they hope you will buy. It sounds like a lot of wasted money to me.

General Motors has made similar missteps with its Saturn division. Saturn for years has had ads featuring the customers, like young moms, single women who pick cars the way they pick boyfriends and dads who play ball with their kids. Now, after carving an image as the friendly and caring brand, Saturn says they have underplayed their products. They say they need to tell people that they have some new cars for sale.

By contrast, Dodge has managed to blend image advertising with product play pretty well. The brand does feature redneck guys who love truck pulls and such. But they always manage to show a Dodge truck or a Charger muscle car in its glory before boasting that it has a Hemi engine unde the hood. The result: Dodge boasts brawny, rough Americana kind of image and then hammers home the point with its brash-looking truck grilles and big Hemi engines.

Enough of this smarmy crap featuring people doing activities that almost none of Ford’s buyers really do. I want to see Mustangs laying down rubber, F-150 pickups towing a speed boat, the Fusion sedan taking tight corners, or even an engineer testing out one of the company’s hybrid-electric vehicles. I want to know what they trying to sell me. I understand image marketing. But this first ad isn’t how you do it.

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