Ford Motor Co. will be hammering away at how darn good-looking its 2013 Ford Fusion is in the multi-media launch blitz.
The automaker isn’t off base with this strategy, since the redone midsize sedan has gotten a slew of very positive ink for its good looks – not really a staple in the segment.
“The media launch of the Fusion will showcase how Ford is shaking up the bland midsize sedan segment,” said Jim Farley, exec VP and group VP of global marketing, sales and service. “Why do car buyers have to sacrifice styling and forward-looking design for fuel economy? They don’t.”
This isn’t the first time a carmaker has zeroed in on styling to push a midsize sedan. Most memorably, Nissan and its ad agency , TBWA, used “Cure for the Common Car” in fall 2001 to launch the 2002 Altima. Still, styling hasn’t traditionally been the focus to advertise cars in this category.
Ford and its ad agency, WPP Group’s Team Detroit in Dearborn, hired Chinese artist Liu Bolin as a consultant for the print ads. Bolin is known around the world for painting his body and clothes to camouflage himself in photographs and he helped TeamDetroit create print ads that make competitors’ cars invisible.
This behind-the-scenes video will give you a better look at Team Detroit’s Big Idea
The look of the ads is pretty cool and the Big Idea works with the strategy without being obnoxious or naming rivals.
The new Fusion is also on the back cover of Maxim’s annual “Best Stuff of the Year issue, due Nov. 18. Ford’s Mustang is on the magazine’s cover – a nice double play. Toby Barlow, chief creative officer of Team Detroit, said the magazine approached Ford, not visa versa.
Amy Marentic, group marketing manager at Ford, said the Fusion launch ads try to use design and technology to stand out in the crowded midsize segment. “We also knew we had to appeal to the rational side, and the most rational thing about this car is the fuel economy,” she said.
So the ads do mention MPG. The theme line in the TV spots is : It’s an entirely new idea of what a car can be.”
The agency extended the “disappearing” act of the print ads to one of its three national TV commercials, like this :30 one :
The final editing of the final two spots got delayed by Super Storm Sandy; the outfit doing the work is based in lower Manhattan. One touts “while everyone else seems to be going in the wrong direction, Ford is not just going forward, it’s going in an entirely new direction.”
But the third spot is the most dramatic. This commercial, for the Fusion Hybrid, touts the car’s “outstanding performance” and estimated 100 mpg range. It also shows viewers the only thing the car can’t do- drive off a cliff. Yes, Team Detroit “jumped” a new Fusion in a one-take shot in Vancouver and the ad should attract eyeballs. Once it breaks, there will be a behind-the-scenes video of how the spot was made. (The car used in the stunt isn’t drivable, Barlow said).
In typical Ford fashion, this big media part of the launch came only after a major pre-launch that started digitally with a big push in July. Marentic said Farley challenged her team to encourage 300,000 consumers to build and price the new Fusion before it went on sale.
Enter “Random Acts of Fusion,” a massive social media, online video effort starring Ryan Seacrest, Joel McHale and Kate Micucci. Ford launched the push on national TV in July, along with the site RandomActsofFusion.com. The push included scavenger hunts, local events and chances to win one of 3 Fusions.
In this video, McHale and Micucci explain how they’re going to create a documentary with the 100 new Fusions they got from Secrest.
OK. Not the funniest video ever and the others are similar in tone. Still, Ford said 2 million people have visited the Random site, which tallied more than 12 million video views. Plus, the push nearly doubled Farley’s goal for online Fusion build-and-pricing by consumers, reaching more than 520,000, Marentic said.
Ford isn’t done yet for the Fusion. Coming Thursday, Nov, 15 is “Go Further with Ford Night” at local dealers, named for the brand’s new ad tag. For each person who visits a participating Ford dealer that night, the dealer will donate $10 – up to a total of $500 – to a local charity. Some 2,200 Ford dealers have already signed up to participate, Marentic said. People who register at a dealership that day will be entered into a prize drawing to win a new Fusion.
Visitors 18 and older can also try to win a VIP trip to see the popular “American Idol” TV show by testing their talent judging skills on camera. Each dealership will have a webcam to see a special message from Seacrest before they do some judging on camera. (Ford has been a long-time backer of American Idol style, which returns in January on FOX.
Ford is certainly backing the new Fusion with a major push that should build street cred and sales for the car.
MAKING TRACKS: Ford Motor’s Jim Farley, already exec VP and group VP of global marketing, sales and service for the Ford brand, adds the Lincoln brand. Farley quickly moved Matt Van Dyke from US director of marketing communications for Ford and Lincoln to director of Lincoln globally for marketing, sales and service. He’ll report to Farley. The two men have known each other since 2000 and worked together when Farley headed Toyota’s lux Lexus brand and Van Dyke was the account chief at the brand’s ad agency, TeamOne.
Kevin Koeppen, who had been manager-advertising and media, succeeds Van Dyke.
You can find me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Forbes.com
On Twitter at jhal2001