Ford Uses Car Few Will Buy In Super Bowl Ads

Ford said Thursday it will run two ads for the GT supercar during the pre-game of the Super Bowl. By bypassing the actual game broadcast, the company says it is spending its money wisely because, says Ford Division marketing communication manager Rich Stoddart, attention wanes from the kickoff on.

Two TV spots, one 30-seconds and one 60-seconds, will run that are little more than video postcards of the screaming, growling GT, which “goes on sale” this summer for a sticker of $139,995, though dealers who actually sell them to customers instead of keeping them for their own garages are sure to charge more.

Ford executives have been carried away with the GT ever since chairman Bill Ford introduced the concept at the 2002 Detroit Auto Show. Why spend big money in a pricey Super Bowl venue on a car that doesn’t need to be sold? “The answer is – this car is a testament to the capabilities of Ford Motor Co.,” said Stoddart. “This is a car no one else can build. It’s the perfect car to launch ‘The Year of the Car.'” After spending the past few years beefing up its truck and SUV business, Ford this year is launching the Five Hundred sedan, Freestyle crossover and Mustang to go along with the GT, rescuing the beleaguered Taurus and Crown Victoria from having to do battle alone with Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. The GT, Ford hopes, will sprinkle stardust on the more pedestrian offerings.

Still, it seems odd that Ford wouldn’t at least mingle in images or teasers of the 2005 Mustang, a car the young men watching the pre-game will actually be in a position to buy in the fall. It’s not the first iffy advertising move made by Ford Division chief Steve Lyons. Last year, Lyons introduced “If you haven’t looked at Ford lately, look again,” ad slogan. It was meant to play off the infamous “Have You Driven a Ford Lately” tagline of yore, but has come a cross as an apologetic “please pick me” plaintiff cry in Ford’s Centennial year, a year that should have had a more prideful, celebratory advertising tenor. And while the F-Series launch can hardly be criticized, the success of the advertising has come from the enormous media weight put behind the ads. The ads, always created by J. Walter Thompson’s Detroit office, themselves have been fairly hum-drum considering the importance of the vehicle launch. As far as the super low-volume GT car goes, some dealers can earn the honor of selling the GT by winning a customer service satisfaction survey, and other GTs will go to the highest-volume dealers. The rest of the nearly 800 GTs that will be sold this year will go to dealers chosen from a lottery system. The company plans on making around 3,500 over the course of 2 1/2 years. The GT commercial will be shown again during the Ford Championship at Doral, which will be broadcast on NBC in March. It will also air during the American Idol finals, set for May on the Fox network. – Jim Burt

2005 Ford GT by Marty Padgett