Ford's Ad Campaign Embraces Its Past, Takes Digs at Start-Up Competitors

October 22, 2018

By Carlo Versano

Ford's decision to tap the agency that executed the recent headline-grabbing Nike ad campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick for the automaker's new branding campaign is no accident.

As more brash companies like Tesla ($TSLA) and Uber suck up the oxygen in what was once a staid industry, Ford is "dialing up the attitude and braggadocio" to get people talking about the 115-year-old brand, said Ad Age's E.J. Schultz.

Ford's new "Built Ford Proud" campaign is the work of the Wieden+Kennedy agency, long known for its creative ads for Nike ($NKE) ー including its controversial ad featuring ex-quarterback and activist Kaepernick. The first "Built Ford" ad stars Bryan Cranston inhabiting a series of cinematic personas that all take subtle digs at the tech industry. Referencing the iconic "Built Ford Tough" tagline, the ad emphasizes Ford's manufacturing chops, size, and heritage over the sexier promises of futuristic start-ups.

"Talk doesn't get things done," Cranston says in the ad. "Building does."

In a sector that's slowly moving from a focus on ownership to a mobility-as-a-service model and making billion-dollar investments in autonomous tech, Ford ($F) has struggled to stay relevant, which has been reflected in its lagging sales and slumping stock.

"They had to do something with their communications strategy," Schultz said.

Ford ー and legacy automakers in general ー need to walk a fine line: show that they are serious about investing in future technologies that are likely to revolutionize the industry, from autonomy to electrification, while also satisfying its customers who still walk into showrooms to buy trucks and cars.

"They're trying to wear multiple hats," as Schultz said, but the "job number one" for Ford is still selling automobiles, like the F-150, which happens to be the top-selling vehicle in the U.S.

"The trick is to do that and figure out the future," Schultz said.

For full interview click here.

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