Will Ford's Milk Shake Bring Anybody to the Yard?

As part of Ford’s reportedly $80 million marketing push for the new Edge crossover, the company has inked a deal with hip hop singer Kelis to star in the “urban marketing campaign” portion of the plan – Ford’s terminology, not mine. Spots will feature a jingle by Kelis titled Push it to the Edge and run on television, Steve Harvey’s radio show, and websites like AOL Black Voices.

At first glance, the Grammy nominated singer — who’s hits “Milk Shake, “Bossy,” and “Blindfold Me” you might have missed — seems an odd fit for Ford. Notoriously prudish, the company once recalled an entire run of luxury brand catalogs because some examples contained promo Aston-Martin hand-cuffs deemed too risqué by management.

Previous artists who’ve pitched for Ford, like Toby Keith and Kelly Clarkson, have been wholesome and squeaky-clean. Kelis’ videos, meanwhile, are gritty, over-the-top, and, you guessed it, hyper-sexual. (Watch them: Milk Shake, Bossy, Blindfold Me.) I can’t help but wonder what a Bill O’Reilly would do with these in hand. Then there’s the American Family Association

But seriously, Kelis is a surprisingly pertinent choice. Steve Stoute, the Chief Creative Officer of Translation, a firm that matches big brands with hip hop stars, says the fit seems natural given Kelis’ “crossover” appeal. “The key in these types of deals is transmitting proximity and authenticity,” says Stoute, who’s put deals together between HP and Gwen Stefani, Jay-Z and Reebok, McD’s and Justin Timberlake.

So, the real question is can the Edge lead a double life, appealing to the boomers and empty-nesters bailing out of Ford’s mid-size SUVs and, at the same time, come off as cool to the urban young? It’s possible.

Miles Kovacs, the President and Co-Founder of DUB Magazine, points out that Chrysler’s 300C – which was concomitantly patronized by Snoop Dogg and the most uptight Desperate Housewife — had no trouble occupying multiple cultural spaces at the same time.

Problem is, the Edge isn’t as strong-looking a vehicle at the 300 and I’m not sure how it’ll connect with the audience or the advertising — even if Kelis is uber-relevant. Ford won’t have any problem selling the Edge to its current customer base. But, to make the most of the model it desperately needs to push into new customers.

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