Just a couple of days before Ford Motor Co.'s global brand TV commercial was to break, Kevin Brown realized his team had overlooked something.
The first appearance of the spot was scheduled in New Zealand, fed by satellite from Bristol, Conn. But Brown says his global media team at Ford Motor Media had forgotten to take Connecticut's daylight-saving time into account.
But the glitch was fixed in time, and the spot went off smoothly - the first step in Ford's monumental effort to broadcast the same commercial virtually everywhere in the world during each nation's 9 p.m. time slot.
'This was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of time zones ,' Brown says. 'It was just one more wrinkle in the whole thing.'
Brown is director of global communication futures and specialized media at Ford Motor Media in Detroit. He was the point man for the global TV 'roadblock,' the two-minute spot broadcast Nov. 1.
There was no playbook on how to do it, because it had never been done before, but the networks worked closely with the media staff to pull it off. 'The media that carried this for us did a phenomenal job to make this go bang all at one time,' said a relieved Bob Mancini, executive director of Ford Motor Media, a subsidiary of J. Walter Thompson.
Planning started in February. U.S. buys came first, during the upfront TV buying period in late spring. MindShare, a London sister agency to J. Walter Thompson, negotiated country by country with local TV stations.
All told, a team of 45 people, including 42 from MindShare, spent about 21/2 months negotiating with media outlets . Brown and his team spent the last two weeks before the airdate ensuring tapes of the spot were where they needed to be.
E-mail saves the day
'Without e-mail, we couldn't have done it,' says Brown, who sometimes put in 60-hour weeks keeping up with his worldwide team.
Most of Europe was fed from London, Paris and Berlin, and the bulk of Asian broadcasts came from Hong Kong and Singapore.
All Latin and South American broadcasts were fed from the United States, primarily New York. Brazil was the sole exception. A special Portuguese version of the spot had to be produced and handled via videos on the ground there.
J. Walter Thompson in Detroit, which created the commercial, had to use Quebec labor to add French subtitles for that market. China's had Mandarin subtitles.
After the Nov. 1 roadblock, a 60-second version of the spot ran internationally through Nov. 14 on CNN, ESPN and MTV. Ford Motor Media is trying to determine if the campaign reached a billion viewers, and to assess the effectiveness of the $15 million push. That's just in case Ford decides to do a global roadblock again.
Mancini says about that possibility: 'The jury is still out on a 2000 broadcast.'