<font size="2" face="Verdana, Arial">Ford hypes redone F-150 to the max
Turnaround success banks on record ad blitz topping $100 million
By Mark Truby / The Detroit News
A song written and recorded by country music star Toby Keith will anchor Ford's F-150 sales campaign.
DEARBORN -- Ford Motor Co. plans to launch one of the largest advertising campaigns ever in the auto industry this summer to promote its completely redesigned F-150 pickup.
Ford Division President Steve Lyons said the cost of the initial advertising blitz "will exceed $100 million."
The barrage of television, magazine and newspaper ads will begin in late August as the large pickup truck starts to reach dealer showrooms.
"It's the biggest launch in our history," Lyons said.
The success of the F-150 is critical to Ford's efforts to rebound from recent financial losses and stagnant sales.
Ford sold 813,701 F-Series pickups last year, making it the best selling vehicle in the United States. Ford is now hoping to race past its rivals and reach 1 million F-series sales in a single year.
The F-150 marketing campaign will challenge General Motors Corp.'s $135 million campaign in 1998 to introduce the redesigned Chevy Silverado pickup -- the most expensive marketing launch in recent memory.
Country music star and Ford pitchman Toby Keith has written and recorded a song specifically for the launch of the new F-150. It's the second song Keith has written specially for Ford since he signed a multi-year endorsement deal with the automaker last year.
Ford played the new song for its dealers at meetings earlier this month.
"I absolutely loved it," said Jerry Reynolds, a high-volume Ford dealer in Garland, Texas. "It gave me chill bumps."
Detroit advertising agency J. Walter Thompson is crafting the F-150 television and print campaign. Lyons said he sent the firm back to the drawing board after reviewing a series of proposals that included four possible F-150 slogans.
"This is worth taking some tim`1e to get exactly what you want," Lyons said. "The themes were actually quite strong. In the end, you want consumers to say, 'That would cause me to go look at a truck. That's something compelling.'"
Ford spent $1.8 billion redesigning the F-150. Engineers created five distinct versions of the pickup -- from a basic work truck to a leather and wood-trimmed luxury version -- in hopes of appealing to a broader range of truck buyers.
The challenge now is relaying the changes to customers in a clear and memorable way.
Chevrolet built its Silverado campaign around singer Bob Seger's tune "Like a Rock."
The new Dodge Ram debuted in 2001 with the slogan "Grab Life by the Horns." In television advertisements, the Ram was touted as the mayor of Truckville as Aerosmith's "Just Push Play" provided the thumping background music.
Ford plans to advertise the F-150 heavily during National Football League telecasts this fall.
"We will be all over NFL football and we will have a large presence on college football," Lyons said. "It hits our demographic perfectly."
In addition to traditional advertising, Ford is working with dealers across the country to stage a "national F-150 sales day." The sales promotion is likely to happen in September when dealer lots will be stocked with the new truck.
Ford also plans to offer incentives on the new F-150 as soon as the truck goes on sale. Typically, automakers try to sell new vehicles at full list price for a period of time before offering discounts.
"You have to give the dealers something to work with," Lyons said. "That's the reality. The volumes here are so enormous that you can't hold back too long."
You can reach Mark Truby at (313) 222-2082 or mtruby