NEW YORK -- Ford Motor Co. hopes a dose of "celebrity lite" will add star power to a campaign for the Lincoln MKX crossover and MKZ Hybrid sedan while letting the brand take center stage.
The "Smarter Than Luxury" campaign was launched Oct. 2 during NBC's telecast of the Ryder Cup golf tournament with three 30-second spots featuring the actor John Slattery. Commercials on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Jimmy Kimmel Live"; Fox's "Glee"; and NBC's "The Tonight Show" followed.
The TV effort is backed by print ads in publications such as Forbes, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, Bon Appetit and Road & Track. The digital component at lincoln.com is highlighted by a series of feature-focused videos hosted by Paul Hochman, gear and technology editor for NBC's "Today Show," and Katie Linendoll, a regular guest commentator on CNN.
Slattery, a character actor, was a careful selection by Lincoln. He is recognizable enough from roles on "Ed," "Desperate Housewives" and currently "Mad Men," where he stars as ad agency owner Roger Sterling, but not so recognizable as to overwhelm the brand with celebrity endorsement.
While he might be recognizable to everyone in the ad industry, in the rest of the country, he's no Tom Cruise. Still, he's not a C-list soap star, either.
"John is parallel to the Lincoln brand," Connie Fontaine, Lincoln's luxury and nontraditional communications manager, told Advertising Age -- which, like Automotive News, is published by Crain Communications Inc.
"A lot of people say they know John, have heard of John but can't quite put their finger on him. It's 'Where do I know that guy from?'
"People say they've heard of Lincoln and know Lincoln, but then they're surprised when they get in a dealership and see one."
Slattery, with his silver hair, is not reprising his Roger Sterling role from "Mad Men" in the spots. He is often seen in fleeting images or in a mirrored reflection. Though it is his voiceover that is heard in the three commercials, only at the end of each spot does he turn to the camera, while driving, to deliver a short line.
"John has that charisma and credibility," Fontaine said. "He's the matter-of-fact guy. That kind of storyteller is someone we want. John has that great tone that says, 'I know you already know this, but let me tell you about this.' And we have a great story to tell."
More important, the spots show Slattery using the functions of the car, including technologies such as MyLincoln Touch, similar to Ford's Sync communications system.
Matt VanDyke, Ford's director of U.S. marketing communications, said: "This campaign shows that Lincoln offers a heightened sense of style, craftsmanship and technology, and we're showing that off in a new way for this brand."
Through September, Lincoln's U.S. sales rose 7 percent from the year-earlier period to 63,286 vehicles. In the same nine months, Ford Motor Co.'s overall sales rose 19 percent, and U.S. sales rose 10 percent.