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]

'SWAP YOUR RIDE' FOR A FORD AND EARN UP TO $1,000 BONUS CASH
  • 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"