Ford Motor Co. tapped a nameless, animated character, developed in Italy, for the launch of its new C-MAX Hybrid.
The “La Linea” character will appear in all C-MAX communications, arriving tonight in a pair of :30s on national TV from TeamDetroit in Dearborn. Ford is taking direct aim at the Toyota Prius, which virtually controls the hybrid market in this country. Ford’s ads are going to crow about how the C-MAX Hybrid gets better mileage, is cheaper and has more horsepower than the Prius v wagon.
La Linea (Italian for “the line), made it to American tv sets in the 1970s into 1986, appearing on the kids’ show “Great Space Coaster.”
In case you don’t remember the character, here’s one of the commercials, called “Be Great”
What’s not to like about the simplicity of the work and clarity of message? The ads are intriguing and should stand out in the auto category. The only thing that bothers me about these first 2 spots is the “Hi “line. It reminds me of BBDO Detroit’s 1994 launch work for the Dodge and Plymouth Neon: “Say Hi To Neon.”
Toby Barlow, executive VP and chief creative officer of TeamDetroit told me his group took the “Hi” road because it was more friendly than the industry’s traditional “introducing the…..” He told me “no one should be saying introducing. It’s not really part of the vernacular.”
Sounds good to me.
Using this simple character was no easy feat. Mama Mia!
Its creator, artist Osvaldo Cavandoli, died in 2007. TeamDetroit worked with Quipos, the company that has the rights to “La Linea” to keep the look authentic. Since the licensing deal required the animation be done by hand, TeamDetroit worked with Shilo. The New York shop, which has produced the MetLife ads with Snoopy, made computer versions of the ads. They were then sent to the animators so they could create everything by hand.
TeamDetroit’s Brad Hensen, creative director, said “the fact that each cell has to be hand-drawn lends a certain warmth to the animation.”
The C-MAX blitz will continue for 15 months and includes print, out-of-home and events. The social media play includes an ad buy on LinkedIn, probably on the sign-out page, plus Facebook and a micro site with amusing “Hybrid Games” videos spoofing two sports casters showing how well the C-Max performs against Toyota’s Prius v. This site
has a share button so visitors can spread the word for Ford if they want.
Since the vast majority of hybrid vehicles are bought in a handful of markets, Ford will augment the national media buy with regional.
Let’s be realistic, Ford isn’t about to unseat the Prius any time soon. Nor are any other hybrids in the near future. But Ford has a very compelling product offering in the C-MAX Hybrid that could slowly start eroding the Toyota’s share.
MAKING TRACKS: Russel Wager is back in the USA! Wager is joining Mazda North America Operations as VP-marketing from DDB in Beijing, where he led VW’s account. Wager left the US in 2010 to move to Japan joining TBWA\Hakuhodo International as president and heading the Nissan account in 52 countries. He succeeds Don Romano, who resigned this summer as CMO and the head of Mazda in Canada. Romano is now said to be a distributor.
Follow me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Forbes.com
On Twitter @jhal2001