"Ford. Drive One." A Slogan For The Times

Ford is reportedly readying a new ad campaign for its struggling North American business under the theme: “Ford. Drive One.”

The campaign, developed under the guidance of Ford’s new chief marketer James Farley, and created by WPP ad agency Team Detroit, with the help of other WPP ad shops, will replace “Bold Moves,” which was introduced to bold yawns in 2006.

Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been angling for Ford to have a unified brand message worldwide. But before developing that structure, said one Ford executive, “We have stop the bleeding in North America.”

Before Farley came to Ford from Toyota last Fall, Team Detroit, Arnold Communications and another WPP ad shop had pitched new campaigns to Mulally, but none got greenlighted. Team Detroit’s slogan, thought to be the best of the three efforts, was “Everybody In.”

If “Ford. Drive One” sounds a bit “retailish,” it’s not by accident. Farley has been working closely with dealers to empower them more at the retail level with ad dollars. Dealers, in fact, had a great deal of input into the new campaign. Too, Farley is directing a lot of marketing money previously run nationally to the dealers and sales regions to use more tactically.

The new slogan also seems like a less musical version of “Have You Drive A Ford Lately?, an old line of Ford’s that Mullaly especially likes and has repeated several times in recent months as his preference. Taking that cue, some dealers, in Boston for example, began tagging their ads with the old slogan.

Ford is trying to boost higher consideration of its vehicles, which have been earning increasingly glowing reviews from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports for quality and design. The Ford Fusion, Edge and Lincoln MKX and MKZ, for example, have scored especially well. But Ford is hanging on to its current 16% market share by its finger nails.

I’ll reserve judgment on the new campaign until I see the creative work that goes with what feels like a limp ad slogan to me. Many marketing execs in the auto business downplay the importance of a slogan. I can see why. So many in the auto business, especially in Detroit are so lame that I would downplay them too.

But a good line doesn’t just sell, or boost consideration. It should serve as an anchor of the brand promise for both customers and employees, as well as well as dealers. I’m not sure “Ford. Drive One” does that. Would you eat at a restaurant that advertised: “Bob’s. Eat Here.” Would you be inspired to fly on an airline that pitched: “United: Fly Us.”

That’s all for now. “David Kiley. Read Me.”

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