DEARBORN - Retail ads for Ford’s Summer Sales Event are running now throughout the country and according to David Rivers, manager, U.S. Retail Communications, there are three key ingredients in their recipe for success: strong products, real people talking about their experiences with the Ford brand and Mike Rowe facilitating that discussion.
“All of those elements working together give us a big lift in terms of authenticity, breaking through a crowded advertising marketplace and really driving our brand forward,” said Rivers, noting that Nielsen ad tracking metrics for similar spots done in in the past – with Rowe talking to real people about Ford products – show a 50 percent improvement in consumer response and memorability compared to ads from competing auto brands.
The setting for the ads is an outdoor summer barbecue and Rowe – in his inimitable personable style – is talking to customers about the various cars, SUVs and trucks that make up Ford’s product portfolio.
“Our approach was to capitalize on the fact that so much happens in the summertime around friends and family and it’s a really fun time of year with barbecues and vacations,” said Rivers. “So our theme is just that. It’s a summer barbecue. Mike is flipping burgers and interacting with real people in a very nontraditional – not a dealership – setting.”
Ford’s “nontraditional” approach to retail advertising differs from many other automakers, according to Rivers.
“Our approach is to go beyond effectively communicating the deal,” explained Rivers. “Our cars and all the great features they offer are the focal point of our advertising.”
The customers featured in the ads are real people. But despite what you may think, these are not folks who drive Ford cars. The ad team specifically seeks out consumers of competitive vehicles – primarily Hondas, Toyotas and Chevrolets.
“We challenge those people to experience our products and that helps with overall surprise and delight,” said Rivers. “A lot of people don’t realize that Ford offers a lineup with such class-leading fuel efficiency and safety features, cutting-edge technology and great-looking design. When they’re a Honda owner for example who is used to driving an Accord and we put them in a Fusion they’re truly amazed at the vehicle and the value.”
According to Rivers, Mike Rowe brings authenticity to the ads. As the host, creator and executive producer of Discovery Channel’s Emmy-nominated series Dirty Jobs, Rowe is comfortable in real-life settings.
“He is such a natural. Mike’s a really humorous guy, very down to earth and easy to talk to,” said Rivers, adding that the ads are not scripted. “He knows our products so well now. So it’s just Rowe and a group of people having a conversation and in many cases they don’t even realize that there are a bunch of cameras around them.”
Because the Summer Sales Event is Tier 2 retail advertising – which means the ads are produced by Ford and offered to dealer groups who then have the option to purchase media time to run them – dealer buy-in is a key indicator of advertising effectiveness, says Rivers.
“Part of how we judge success is the number of dealer groups who embrace the idea and put up their own money to run the ads in their local markets,” he said. “And we have almost 90 percent of Ford Dealer Advertising Associations throughout the country picking them up.”
Nearly all Ford vehicles – from Fiesta through Super Duty – will be featured in the Summer Sales Event ads, which will run through Labor Day.