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A lot of air has escaped Ford's balloon, and it's launching a new advertising campaign to spread the word about its lineup. Instead of some gimmicky pitchman like Honda's dreadful and annoyingly drawn "Mr. Opportunity," or the mustachioed Dr. Z of the company formerly known as DaimlerChrysler, Ford's using the endorsements of regular folks to shill their wares. Testimonials carry weight, and Ford wanted to get unvarnished opinions without interfering. A fake market research firm was set up to act as a go-between and collect reactions from people who traded in for a week the car they'd just bought for a new Ford vehicle. Needless to say, the commercials are enthusiastic endorsements of Dearborn's offerings.

Alan Mulally reportedly took a lead role in getting Ford's new "Swap My Ride" campaign underway, and has kept an eye on Ford's advertising since arriving. It's not enough to whip the actual product into shape, but customers have to be made aware that the automaker's been making an effort. Sure, much of the magic of thirty-second spots is made in editing, but as I sit here watching one of the spots, they're well done (not that I'd expect anything less from powerhouse agency JWT), and Ford's current lineup is strong enough to warrant a look. Hey, a ruse is no worse than that Lexus narrator guy who sounds addled on quaaludes, or Land Rover's breathy Taiko drum extravaganzas.

Hit the jump for the press release and watch the campaign's launch spot

[Source: NYTimes]
  • Ford debuts "Swap Your Ride" marketing campaign featuring real people sharing their candid feedback after test-driving Ford vehicles for one week.
  • Ford went undercover to find out what would happen if people who own other brands of vehicles were to get behind the wheel of a Ford. Consumers' perceptions changed dramatically after their test drive: Purchase consideration for Ford doubled.
  • Ford is offering up to $1,000 "Swap Bonus Cash" through Oct. 1 on most 2007 and 2008 model year Ford vehicles in addition to all existing retail and lease offers.

DEARBORN, Mich., Sept. 4, 2007 – As Ford continues to earn recognition from third-party experts for design, safety, quality and innovation, the company is inviting consumers to "swap their ride" and get behind the wheel of one of its award-winning Blue Oval products.

Ford today is launching "Swap Your Ride," an integrated marketing campaign that chronicles the experiences of competitive-make vehicle owners from New York, Dallas, Miami and Los Angeles as they evaluate Ford cars, trucks, SUVs and CUVs. The ads, which take their inspiration from the reality TV phenomenon, feature candid feedback from people who thought they were test-driving vehicles for market research.

The campaign is backed by an offer of up to $1,000 "Swap Bonus Cash" through Oct. 1 on most 2007 and 2008 model year vehicles in addition to all existing retail and lease offers.

"When consumers experience a new Ford vehicle for themselves – especially when they haven't driven one of our products lately – it's almost always an eye-opening experience," said Barry Engle, general manager, Ford Marketing. "In 'Swap Your Ride,' real people tell this story in their own words."

"Swap Your Ride" participants were asked before and after their test-drive experience whether they would be open to purchasing or leasing a Ford vehicle in the future. The results: Purchase consideration following consumers' week-long product evaluation doubled to nearly 80 percent.

Capturing Candid Feedback

Since the debut of the Fusion Challenge campaign in January, Ford broadcast, print and digital ads have emphasized the strength of its products versus the competition. "Swap Your Ride" takes that same confident and competitive spirit even further with candid footage captured in what was essentially a market research exercise.

To ensure the authenticity of the responses, Ford made certain none of the consumers knew beforehand that they were participating in a Ford-sponsored event. To keep its participation under wraps, Ford created a market research company, In Home Test Drive Experience LLC, to recruit almost 90 competitive vehicle owners to evaluate one of 11 Ford vehicles, including a Ford Fusion, Focus, Mustang, Taurus, Edge, Escape, Escape Hybrid, Expedition, Expedition EL, F-150 or F-Series Super Duty during a week-long test drive.

Participants agreed to have a video crew shadow them during the course of the week. Only after the vehicles were returned was Ford's role revealed.

To translate consumers' candid impressions from documentary-style raw footage into 30-second ads, Ford and JWT Team Detroit enlisted the help of noted documentary filmmaker Jessica Yu. Her Academy Award™-winning documentary short, Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien, tells the story of a writer who lived for 40 years paralyzed by polio. She also has won acclaim for the HBO film, The Living Museum, and has directed episodes of The West Wing, ER, Lyon's Den and other television programs.

Integrated Advertising Campaign

The first of 28 "Swap Your Ride" television commercials will air tonight, with spots scheduled on the major broadcast and cable networks during such highly rated shows as Desperate Housewives, CSI, Extreme Home Makeover and Bones. The campaign also includes Spanish-language ads.

Print executions will appear nationally in USA Today and in major newspapers in 25 top markets beginning on Sept. 7. Radio spots will air nationally, regionally and locally beginning this week. Digital advertising for "Swap Your Ride" also will appear on a variety of sites including Google, Yahoo!, MSN and other automotive research sites. In addition, fordchallenge.com will feature additional behind-the-scenes footage compiled during the clinics.

Program Details

Ford's "Swap Your Ride" campaign includes retail and lease offers which run nationwide through Oct. 1:

  • Up to $1,000 "Swap Bonus Cash" on most 2007 and 2008 model year Ford vehicles in addition to all existing retail and lease offers
  • The "Swap Bonus Cash" offer for most eligible vehicles is $1,000; the 2008 Ford Fusion and Mustang are eligible for $500 "Swap Bonus Cash"
  • 2007 F-150 models will offer $1,000 "Swap Bonus Cash" plus zero percent financing for 60 months
  • 2007 Explorer, SportTrac and Ranger will offer stand-alone zero percent financing for 60 months (or 1.9 percent financing plus $1,000 "Swap Bonus Cash")
  • Certain 2007 and 2008 models, including Shelby and Harley-Davidson models, are not eligible for "Swap Bonus Cash"

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Let me know when Ford offers a decent RWD sedan. In the meantime, I'm looking at Pontiac.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I've got a 2000 Focus I bought as a beater/urban runabout. It's pretty good, so go I rarely ever drive either of our other cars (an Audi and a Jag).

      Cheap to fill, gets great gas mileage (32 combined, over 40 on pure highway @ 70), carries loads of stuff, handles great and is easy to park in the city. And it's been dead reliable with 130k miles and 12 months of ownership.

      The only real issue is the wind noise on the highway, but it's not really a luxury car, so no surprise. I might have bought a new one next year, if they hadn't canceled the hatchback. As it is, I'll probably just use this one until it dies, then buy an SVT.

        • 7 Years Ago
        Actually, both cars are just as reliable, with the Jag being better than the Audi. Also Jag has won JD Powers quality awards and has roughly the same rating as Lexus. They used to be really bad, but post '96 Jags are actually quite good, better than BMW's and Merc's (both of which I would never buy again, except maybe for a 280SL or a 2002). The key is actually to do ALL the scheduled maintenance, which a lot of people ignore as it can be quite expensive.

        Luckily for me, most people think just like you, which pretty much means that Jags depreciate massively, making for great, cheap used cars. Besides, the reason I drive the Focus has nothing to do with reliability and everything to do with fuel consumption and parkability.

      • 7 Years Ago
      It's a clever marketing ploy; a new media age adaptation of the successful ad campaign of the 80's (Have you driven a Ford lately?).
      Of course what a one week test drive can't measure is long term reliability. And that is Ford's achilles heel.
      A company can benchmark responsiveness, appearance, ergonomics. etc and produce a competitive car. What Ford has been historically reluctant to do is build one as reliable as Honda and Toyota.
      I had an 86 Taurus LX with a 3.0 V-6 that I dearly loved. The ergonomics, styling, handling, and even the audio system were top notch. But the darn thing kept breaking. The power sunroof stopped working for no reason on a hot summer day and took the power window controls with it.
      The fuel pump had to be replaced at less than 30k miles. the brake lights would burn out on a regular basis. The setat track developped a crack that made the front seat rock as I drove. The inside door handle snapped off in my hand...you get the picture.

      It was well designed, well equipped, conceived, and engineered, but cheaply built.
      Until Ford invests in top quality and can field vehicles as reliable as Honda, Toyota, and yes Hyundai (their JD Power ranking in 2005 was second only to Lexus), they will always be fighting for a diminishing share of the market-- die hard domestic-only buyers and people looking for cash on the hood.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Good point jfsvo. If the current reliability is comparable to Hyundai and Asia Inc, I'll consider buying another Taurus.
      • 7 Years Ago
      If Ford offered the Kuga here stateside, they would not have to put cash on the hood to get me to "swap."
      • 7 Years Ago
      Well, my wife won't let me trade in her 2003 Focus for anything... I don't blame her, its never had a single problem. Its a mixed deal for Ford though, I got this car with 23k on the odometer less than a year old for half its "new" value. THAT made me very happy.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Dino, the early Focuses were problematic but now its absolutely one of the most reliable vehicles on the road.
        • 7 Years Ago
        That how i always buy most of GM cars. I know some people whine about resale values but i am not looking to when i sell it. I get a great deal on a relatively new car.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Dino, I have a friend who has an '00 Focus and he thinks his is a POS too. The Focus has had maybe one or two recalls, but nothing major that couldn't be put off until regular service time anyway. Oh, and my "superior" Japanese Honda also had a quiet recall in the same time period. I've actually had more frustrations with the Honda than the Ford, which is contrary to what I was expecting when I purchased them both. One thing - Honda's paint is like a powder you can scrape off with a finger nail, where Ford's paint is tough-as-nails in comparison.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Overhaulin'" called, they want their logo back.
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      just buy your self a hundia
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why don't they offer a chance to win a pony just for taking a test drive?
      • 7 Years Ago
      "Testimonials carry weight, and Ford wanted to get unvarnished opinions without interfering."

      I'm sure. Hm-hm. There was absolutely *NO* bias in Ford's selection of which testimonials to air in this campaign. It's not like there's any particular interest involved, right?

      At least, that's what they said at Car & Driver's "Cadillac vs. Lexus Editor for a Day" event. Paid for by Cadillac. Or the "Taste of Lexus" comparison event, paid for by Lexus.

      You can always count on marketing departments to be fair and unbiased!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Mike Rowe is 100% pure hotness.
      • 7 Years Ago
      "recruit almost 90 competitive vehicle owners to evaluate one of 11 Ford vehicles"

      "competitive" vehicle owners? What does that even mean?

      Notice how Ford did not reveal the percentage of those participating actually favored Ford vehicles after one week of driving. The NY Times merely reported "purchase consideration doubled."

      They should've offered their competitior's cars in addition to Ford's offerings. Give them a month to try out all the cars. And see which brand those people liked better. If those guys/gals drove 10 year old rust buckets of course they'll love a week in a new car!

        • 7 Years Ago

        I did notice that statement made by Dan Roth. However, in the news article, I failed to find any mention that Ford took an active effort to ensure their test subjects only owned newer vehicles. The Ford website also provided nothing of significant/substantial value.

        • 7 Years Ago
        I was actually one of the participants in this campaign- i drive a 2005 Honda CR-V, which is how I came to be involved in the first place. We had to drive cars that were 2005 or newer, and we had to bring our registration in to prove it. I drove the Escape Hybrid, and loved it. I would never have thought about a Ford before this experience, but would consider now. And that is not a lie.
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