TV host Mike Rowe is back, front and center really, in retail TV ads (aka sales event,) for the Ford brand in new work breaking tonight from TeamDetroit in Dearborn. The work will introduce new incentives that don’t look to be as generous as the ones that just expired.

Automakers’ ads for sales events can be awful. But Ford and some other carmakers, are starting to figure out a much better way of messaging. Thank heavens!

As Ford was trying to figure out how to make its spring sales ads stand out, “the answer was in our backyard” and his name is Rowe, said Matt VanDyke, director of Ford’s marketing communications in the U.S. The difference this time around is Rowe, the creator and host of Discovery’s “Dirty Jobs,” was there to interview all 30 people who got to drive a new Ford for a week and interview them on camera for their candid reactions. Most were filmed in Southern California and the focus is on fuel economy and technology, areas where VanDyke said Ford is a leader.
Ford picked the participants via Polk registration data and as simply as approaching people in parking lots.
The marketer ended up with 16 TV commercials, mostly :30s, unless regional dealer ad groups want to use :15s. In one spot, Kevin, a Honda CR-V owner who drove an Escape, is impressed that the Ford suv gets better mileage and he’d like to keep it for a year.  A Toyota Yaris owner who drove a Fiesta calls it “a complete upgrade” from his current car.”
At an event in Dearborn today, VanDyke said during the four years of “Swap” ads, consumer perception of Ford quality has improved by 46%; safety by 34%; innovation by 60% and environmental by 63%.
Those are some pretty impressive stats.
And if you don’t believe Ford’s stats, Nielsen Global Automotive President Lois Miller calls Ford’s “Swap” ads “very, very effective.” She cites Nielsen research showing that Ford’s “Swap” ads are 48% more memorable than ads for average auto sales events.
She notes that Lexus’ December To Remember; Honda’s Mr. Opportunity and GM’s Red Tag sales event ad efforts also saw some decent bumps in effectiveness.
Yes, folks, there’s a lot to be said for consistency in ad messaging. All the aforementioned campaigns for those automakers’ sales events carried the same themes for multiple years in a row. Duh! Today’s time-restrained customers are too busy to pay close attention to an advertiser’s new slogan. That’s if they even remembered the old slogan. Don’t assume people are hanging on your every ad word.
Nielsen’s Miller said people remember Ford’s ads more when Rowe is in them, plus 80% associate “Swap” ads with Ford. Nielsen research of its 2. 5 million online consumer panel also revealed a 30% jump in people’s intent to visit a Ford dealer in the next 30 days as a result of seeing the ad. “That’s huge.”
Ford’s 2010 “Swap” blitz is among the finalists in the Best Sales Event category for Nielsen’s annual Automotive Effectiveness Awards. The winners will be announced at the New York Auto Show on April 20.
The new “Swap” blitz will run aggressively for 60 days on TV and radio, regionally and locally. Regional dealer ad groups can pick which models they want to use. The online component features an extended-length ad on a variety of sites, including Google, AOL, Yahoo plus, and
This year’s Spanish-language TV commercials of “Swap” will feature Chilean-born star Cristian de la Fuente for the second year in a row. Ford’s 2010’s ads with Fuente are a finalist in Nielsen’s Spanish TV Advertiser of the Year.
Former fashion model Boris Kodjoe stars in the African-American “Swap” ads.
Rowe, who has also been in Lee jeans’ TV spots, first hooked up with Ford in spring 2007 TV commercials for the F-150 pickup inviting viewers to “Take the Ford Challenge.” Later that year, he narrated commercials that introduced the “Swap My Ride” ad blitz that showed owners of non-Ford products after they drove a Ford.
Ford didn’t use Rowe in “Swap” ads in 2008 or 2009, as the entire U.S. auto industry pretty much hit the bricks. But he did appear in other Ford ads during those years and appeared in “Swap Your Ride” ads in 2010.
Here’s one from a year ago for the Transit Connect

After a nasty turn in the barrel for a good part of the last decade, Ford is doing a lot of things right these days. There’s still some work to be done on changing perceptions, but the much-improved products and fuel economy are starting to click with buyers.

MAKING TRACKS: Kim McCullough is the new brand Vice President at Land Rover North America, proving you CAN go home again. McCullough is overseeing marketing communications and product planning, reporting to Gary Temple, President of Jaguar Land Rover North America. Her last gig, since August 2009, was assistant general manager at the western region of Toyota’s Lexus arm. She’s one smart cookie who was instrumental in the launch of Toyota’s most competitive Tundra pickup several years ago. McCullough knows Land Rover because she worked there from 1997 to 2001 in marketing and has ad agency experience.

KUDOS: To Subaru of America and its “Love” campaign, for taking home the 2011 Silver Award at the Advertising Research Foundation’s David Ogilvy Awards for Excellence in Advertising. These honors are based on advertisers who produce research-driven, successful ad campaigns. Ya gotta love it!




  1. Ask why Ford Dealers buy Japanese Phone Systems for their Dealerships in Michigan and yet promote “Buy American”?

    Ford Motor Company answered with this: We allow our Dealerships to buy what they want!

    Seems to me the Ford Motor Company Retirees and Union Members would have a problem with that?

    Practice what you preach!

  2. Hello! I drive a 2001 Dodge Intrepid sedan with about 69,000 miles on it. I would LOVE to swap my ride!!! I am looking for a nce looking vehicle that has great gas mileage and warrenty. Also, I would love the opportunity to meet Mike Rowe….not only is he sexy n hot, but he seems to know the car stuff too! lol Anyway, I think we would be great together. No matter what, it sure would be cool to swap my ride! Have a good day,,,,,

  3. I have a 2004 f150 WOULD LIKE TO SWAP FOR A 2011 F150

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