Ford Division thought it had a better idea when it decided to shoot live commercials for the Focus starring actress Annabelle Gurwitch.
But after about 20 of the spots, Jan Klug, marketing general manager of the division, admitted she has taken 'a lot of heat.' Klug said some older customers have complained the spots target only young consumers. Others have said the spots looked staged.
It is better to have too narrow a target than too broad, Klug said, shrugging off the criticism. 'It's better to put a stake in the ground.' However, she said changes are in the works.
All Focus advertising and communications are targeted at 21- to 29-ye ar-olds.
DNA IS WHAT COUNTS
Dan Gorrell, a vice president of auto consumer research at Strategic Vision Inc. in San Diego, said carmakers shouldn't market by age. He suggested the companies should determine what a vehicle stands for, then 'market by the DNA' of the vehicle.
Bruce Rooke, executive creative director at Ford's ad agency, J. Walter Thompson in Detroit, said no one in recent decades has done more than 60 live commercials. 'Every week we ge t new spots vs. seeing the same spot 20 times in the same week,' he said.
Klug said it's too early for data about whether the live commercials turn people off. The car is selling well, she said, and is bringing in younger buyers. Early sales are split evenly between younger buyers and Ford's traditional, older small-car buyers over 35. 'We'd be happy if they'd be 35 years old,' she quipped.
CHANGES ARE AHEAD
Look for changes next year.
Klug said Ford and J. Walter Thompson are looking at ways to make the live commercials more spontaneous and offer 'a little more of the unexpected. The TV spots started Sept. 9 and end in March. About 40 more are planned.'
The next Focus live ads are on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11 on network TV. Ford is trying to work out a deal with Latino rock star Ricky Martin to appear in one of the spots Nov. 11 with Gurwitch. He performs that night in Las Vegas.
Klug said Ford and J. Walter Thompson learn new things as they go.
For example, it didn't take the division long to figure out it was easier to do all the commercials from the West Coast, said Rooke. 'We found it helps to hold the sunlight,' he said.
The first trio of spots was done in Manhattan at night on Sept. 9. J. Walter Thompson needed nearly 24 hours of preparation, partly to place lights on nearby buildings to light the street.
The spots broke on the MTV cable network, but live spots are now only on network TV and only one network a night. It is too difficult to arrange fixed times on cable programming in advance.
'You can't take this too seriously,' she said of the live spots, because they represent only about 20 percent of the TV media buy for the Focus.