Ford Division's decision to use unorthodox, live TV commercials to launch the Focus was great - in concept.
But the executions are falling flat. I've seen six of the live spots since the campaign broke Sept. 9. More than 60 are planned through March 2000. They star Annabelle Gurwitch, the host of 'Dinner & a Movie' on the TBS cable network.
The spots are too scripted. If the word 'live' didn't appear at the bottom of the TV screen, you'd never know it.
Not only are the spots contrived, they're silly.
During a series of four commercials recently broadcast on ABC, Gurwitch is looking for her lost dog, Petey. In the second spot, she goes to a house and knocks on the door. She shows the man who answers a drawing of the dog. 'This is a child's drawing,' he says. She tells the man her parents took the dog away when she was 10. The Focus is parked at the curb.
I realize I'm older than the target audience of 21- to 29-year-olds. But several folks in this age group told me the spots are silly or stupid. I would add the word 'inane.'
Executives from Ford and its ad agency gushed about the campaign when they unveiled it to the press this summer. Bruce Rooke, executive creative director at Ford's ad agency, J. Walter Thompson in Detroit, predicted Gurwitch would goof once in a while. That would build a following by viewers, he projected.
'Are we doing live commercials to be different? You bet,' said Jan Klug, marketing general manager at the division, at the blitz's press debut. 'This is an unconventional car for an unconventional target, so we need to disrupt people from conventional thinking.'
Yet conventional car-ad thinking seems to have prevailed for these live spots.
Gurwitch would be much more entertaining and credible if Ford and the ad agency would just let her go and do what she does best - ad lib. I'm sure they could ask her to talk about some of the car's features in a humorous and lighthearted way. Set her free!
Jean Halliday welcomes comments. Call her at (313) 446-0374 or send e-mail to [email protected]