WOODSTOCK, Vt. - Trying to fight advertising clutter, Ford Division will launch the Focus with a traditional ad blitz followed by special events and promotions spread out over two years.
'We don't expect to create aspiration for this vehicle with just a TV ad,' said division President Jim O'Connor to journalists gathered at a resort here last week. The Focus goes on sale in September.
The division is planning Focus events, promotions, alliance co-branding and Internet activity roughly every quarter for the next 24 months, said Julie Roehm, brand manager for the car. 'We don't think it can be done in three months for a new nameplate.'
Roehm knows the car will attract buyers of different ages but wants advertising to appeal to prospects between 21 and 29.
So 120 young influentials in key trend-setting markets - New York, Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago - will be given a Focus to drive for six months. The idea is for these in-crowders to create a buzz about the car. 'This is the subtle approach,' Roehm said.
Ford is looking at partnering with Sony Corp. because its movie, music and entertainment units are important to the youth target. Details of the partnership will be announced in the future.
The division is considering a limited-edition co-branded mountain bicycle next summer. And the Focus will sponsor concerts by two rock groups, the Cranberries and Collective Soul, as well as Hoop It Up, a three-on-three amateur basketball tour. The Focus will have its own Web site.
The brand's multiphase launch strategy is sound, according to auto marketing consultant Susan Jacobs, president of Jacobs & Associates in Rutherford, N.J.: 'The market is so flooded with new-car introductions, it makes sense to keep introducing your vehicle over and over again because people are getting distracted.'
Ads from J. Walter Thompson in Detroit break in late August.
J. Walter Thompson has used actor John Corbett to narrate Ford Division TV commercials since February 1998. Corbett won't appear in Focus spots.
O'Connor said Ford won't advertise the Escort, and he doesn't expect dealer associations to advertise the small car, either. 'The advertising will be moved to Focus,' he said.
The Escort will become a budget and fleet model when the Focus arrives this fall. Ford will sell a Focus three-door hatchback, sedan and wagon, ranging in price from $12,280 to $15,795, including destination charges.