DETROIT -- Being able to wear skinny jeans is an unusual reason to love a car.
But the Ford brand's newest advertisements -- an evolution of its 20-month Drive One campaign -- aim to share even the little things that Ford owners appreciate about their vehicles. It's the company's attempt to appeal to car shoppers' emotions.
In one commercial, a Ford Flex owner says he can wear skinny jeans because the keyless entry pad on his crossover allows him to avoid a big clump of keys in his pocket.
It's one example of up to 40 15-second spots, all starring Ford owners, that begin appearing on TV and online this week. Owners were invited to focus groups and were filmed without being told that Ford, if granted permission, would use the footage for commercials.
"When we began Drive One, we wanted to rationally distance ourselves from the Detroit competition and begin to compete with Toyota and Honda," said Matt VanDyke, Ford's director of U.S. marketing communications. "And now we're getting into a stage where we need to not just talk about being at parity with others but also talk about how we're different than others."
Ford launched Drive One in April 2008 with ads touting quality, safety, smart technology and environmental leadership. Phase 1 highlighted rational reasons for considering a Ford vehicle, such as fuel economy.
Ford's research shows the message has resonated with shoppers, VanDyke said. Through the first nine months of 2009, Ford brand sales are down 21 percent, compared with a 27 percent decline for the industry. In September, Ford sales fell 4 percent, compared with a 23 percent industry decline.
The new Drive One ads will mix with existing launch advertising for the 2010 Ford Taurus and Fusion cars and F-series pickup spots. They will run through April, making for a fourth- and first-quarter surge in marketing spending.
Year over year, fourth-quarter spending will be up 15 to 20 percent, VanDyke said. He wouldn't disclose a percentage change for the first quarter of 2010, but Ford global marketing chief Jim Farley said previously that the figure would rise.
For all of 2009, marketing spending will be up 10 percent, VanDyke said. He wouldn't disclose numbers, but the company has said it spends $1.5 billion annually on U.S. marketing, including regional and local dealer advertising.
The new Drive One ads will feature Ford cars and crossovers such as the Fusion, Flex, Escape and Taurus. Early next year, the new Ford Fiesta subcompact likely will join the mix, VanDyke said, even though it won't go on sale until the second quarter.