Ford TV Ads Save 70% by Touting Touchscreens, Sonar-Parking

Alan Mulally, chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co.
Alan Mulally, chief executive officer of Ford Motor Co. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Ford Motor Co.’s ads for the revamped Focus compact play up its touchscreen stereo controls and sonar-assisted parking in a technology-centered global campaign that replaces the automaker’s traditional, and costlier, regional strategies.

The 15-second television commercials will debut in North America on March 1 during Fox’s “American Idol,” Jim Farley, group vice president of global marketing, sales and service, said at a New York event announcing the campaign’s launch. Using a single campaign saved about 70 percent in production costs, Farley said.

The new Focus, which goes on sale in March, and the Fiesta subcompact that debuted in June are the foundation of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally’s bet that U.S. buyers will pay more for small cars equipped with amenities typically found in larger models. The Focus starts at about $17,000, and more expensive versions can be as much as $29,000.

“The one area we see as an opportunity to differentiate ourselves, it’s democratizing technology,” Farley said. The marketing teams “all agree if technology is what we want to get across, why do we need all this diversity?”

The campaign’s 50 ads were filmed in one South African shoot with studio elements added in Belgium and England. The spots will begin airing in Europe next month and in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa later this year. With past models, the automaker has used as many as eight regionally targeted campaigns.

Grille Shutters

Features shown in the commercials include sonar-assisted parking, which can steer the Focus into a parallel-parking slot without the driver turning the steering wheel. Other ads show shutters that seal the car’s grille, improving aerodynamics at high speeds, and “start-stop” technology that shuts off the engine when the Focus is at rest.

For the commercials, “our vision was for this car to feel premium if you turn off the sound on TV,” Farley said.

The 15- and 20-second spots last about half as long as typical TV commercials. Ford plowed the savings from filming the ads at one location at one time into increasing the frequency with which the commercials will be aired. The company ran a six-month pre-launch digital and social media campaign that included inviting auto bloggers to Madrid for a test-driving event.

‘From A Friend’

The automaker’s goal was for prospective customers to learn about the Focus, and Ford’s bet on technology, “from a friend, not necessarily from the company,” Farley said.

By 2012, the Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker is targeting worldwide sales of 2 million for the Focus and its global variants, which will cut costs by having more than 80 percent of parts in common, the automaker has said.

Ford, the only major U.S. automaker to avoid bankruptcy in 2009, earned $6.56 billion in 2010, the most since 1999. New models such as the Fiesta subcompact and redesigned Taurus sedan helped the Dearborn, Michigan-based company’s 2010 U.S. sales rise 17 percent, outpacing the industrywide gain of 11 percent.

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