Photo: Karen Bleier, AFP.
DETROIT -- Ford is changing its advertising message to try to attract consumers who have ignored its vehicles while promoting its fuel efficiency around the world.
A single tagline, "Go Further," will replace "Drive One" used since 2008 and the "Feel the Difference" campaign used in parts of the world.
"Ford has global vehicles and a global slogan and global strategy and one ad agency," said analyst Dave Sullivan of AutoPacific. "To lower their costs and deliver a global message is a big accomplishment."
The outgoing campaigns boosted the favorable impression car shoppers have of the Ford brand by 32% in the last four years, said Matt VanDyke, Ford's director of marketing communications.
It was not just customers in the country's center that like the Ford brand. Consumers on both coasts are starting to take more notice, as well.
But Honda and Toyota are still the favorites, consumer surveys show, and in cities like Los Angeles where there are fewer Fords on the road, there is a lingering bias against the brand, said Jim Farley, global marketing, sales and service chief.
The new campaign is designed to show the new vehicles coming, including the Escape, Fusion and Focus ST, and ask the skeptics to reconsider Ford.
"This is our breakout year," said VanDyke. "Our product lineup has never been stronger."
In consumer clinics, customers often think more highly of new Ford or Lincoln products when they don't know which brand they are.
"There is still an opportunity to change perceptions on the coast where people are not paying attention to Ford," VanDyke said.
To entice the skeptics, the first "Go Further" ads that aired three weeks ago showed vehicles with no badging and never mentioned Ford.
VanDyke said the TV ads ran for one week nationally and the reaction surprised Ford and advertising partner Team Detroit, a division of WPP.
Viewers called it a gutsy move and 95% had a positive reaction, VanDyke said.
"It was definitely different from what everyone else is doing," Sullivan said.
A week later, a new version ran that was reworked to include the Ford name in the voiceover and add the Blue Oval and other badging to the vehicles.
Enough buzz was created that the spots, especially the unbranded ad that went viral, generated 3.4 million clicks, which VanDyke said is what many Super Bowl ads generate.
The next step, he said, is transitioning to spots for the new Escape and then the new Fusion.
With an emphasis on EcoBoost turbocharged engines providing better fuel economy, people will become increasingly familiar with the "Go Further" message, Farley said.
As for the unbranded ads, they likely will not be played again in North America, but it is up to officials in each region of the world whether they want to use them, VanDyke said.
The new "Go Further" campaign was rolled out in Europe in January, is just starting in South America and will be in Asia in the second half of the year.
Having a single global message and advertising team significantly reduces cost on the production end, Farley said.
By Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press Business Writer
The Associated Press