Wall St Journal - May 1, 2007
Barry Engle, Ford's new North American marketing chief, acknowledged
that companies usually avoid giving free advertising to rivals. But he
said the challenge ads are meant to "provoke people to try our products
and making sure we are on the list." Mr. Engle also said Ford needs to
face the fact that consumers are pitting the company's vehicles against
those from Honda Motor Co. and Toyota when choosing what to buy. As a
result, he aimed at giving Ford's marketing a more confident tone.
.the Ford Challenge advertising campaign...asks consumers to compare
Ford vehicles to their toughest competitors. The first television,
print and online ads, launched at the beginning of this year, focused
on the Ford Fusion midsize sedan http://doiop.com/Fusion - The
commercials showed consumers comparing the Fusion favorably against a
Toyota Camry and a Honda Accord, both of which were mentioned by name.
Honda spokesman Sage Marie said the Ford ad serves as validation that
the Accord is a benchmark for the segment. Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong
said Ford wasn't making an "apples to apples" comparison because the ad
features an all-wheel-drive Fusion compared with a front-wheel-drive
At first, the Fusion got what Ford insiders call the "launch and
abandon" treatment, as ads for the car largely disappeared several
months after the vehicle hit showrooms after its October 2005 launch.
Mr. Engle found that at the end of 2006, two-thirds of consumers
weren't aware the Fusion existed. "In the past, we gravitated
disproportionately on our new stuff."
But after Ford renewed its push on the Fusion with the Ford Challenge
ads this year, Fusion sales accelerated, up by almost 33% in 2007
through March over a year earlier.
Engle is using some of the lessons he learned as president of Ford
Brazil. Five years ago, Ford faced product and marketing-strategy
problems there similar to those it faces now in the U.S. When Mr. Engle
took over the marketing position in North America, he realized there
was a lot more the marketing team could do with the Fusion, which was
the market leader in South America.
Mr. Engle's next high-profile project will be this summer's relaunch of
the sedan formerly known as the Ford Five Hundred
http://doiop.com/Ford_500 which will be renamed the Taurus. Mr. Engle
declined to discuss the campaign details because it was too early, but
he did say the Five Hundred was another great product that suffered
from lack of awareness and appreciation.