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'Idol' ads crank up Fiesta rollout

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'Idol' ads crank up Fiesta rollout

Ford embraces new reality with a 1-year online blitz, now standard campaign

Bryce G. Hoffman / The Detroit News

Dearborn --Ford Motor Co.'s conventional media blitz for its new Ford Fiesta subcompact will begin today, with the first spot due to air tonight during "American Idol."

But the company's advertising campaign has been in full swing for a year online and already has paid big dividends. Ford marketing executives say 60 percent of the car-buying public already knows about the new Ford.

"It's more than five times more efficient than anything we've done before," said Matt Vandyke, director of U.S. marketing communications for the Dearborn automaker. "It's something you'll see us doing with other vehicles going forward."

Automakers used to focus most of their ad spending on the launch of a vehicle, with support dropping off sharply once it was established in the marketplace. Marketing expert Michael Bernacchi, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, refers to that as the "blast-bust" model, and said Ford deserves credit for figuring out that it is ill-suited to today's digital reality.

"The blast-bust strategy never made a great deal of sense," Bernacchi said. "Ford's new strategy makes great sense, especially if you are going after younger buyers."

Ford is targeting the Fiesta at two very different groups of consumers -- millennials and baby boomers -- but says it needs to market only to the much-younger millennials to attract the boomers.

Its new ads feature scruffy twenty-somethings, music from the up-and-coming band Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and the catchphrase "It's a pretty big deal" -- all of which are likely to resonate with a generation of consumers weaned on iPods and Harry Potter.

These cultural references may mean little to baby boomers, but youth does. And Ford is convinced that will be enough to sell empty-nesters who already are downsizing their lives on its hip subcompact. Bernacchi says it makes sense.

"Boomers are Gen-Y wannabes. Boomers are never going to give up their desire for youthfulness," he said, adding that they have something else in common with millennials: socio-economic status.

"The Gen-Yers are on their way up and the boomers are on the way down. Many of them are past their peak earning years, and a car like this allows them to adapt to that with a wink and a nod because they can convince themselves they are buying it to be cool."

While the Fiesta ads strive to be hip, they also focus on the vehicle's practical side -- particularly its 40-miles per gallon highway fuel economy rating.

"It remains the core reason to buy in this segment," said Chantel Lenard, who is in charge of marketing for Ford's small and midsize cars.

The new spots pull few punches, challenging not only the Fiesta's direct competitors -- the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit -- but even talking some smack about the BMW 3 series, which costs tens of thousands of dollars more. One tongue-in-cheek Web video pits the Fiesta against a Lamborghini.

Ford hopes the conventional ads will build on the success of its largely viral online effort.

More than 130,000 people have signed up online for more information about the Fiesta. More than 80 percent of them do not own a Ford now, and about 30 percent are under 25.

Any automaker would love to see numbers like these, but they are made more impressive by the fact that Ford -- along with the rest of Detroit -- has long lagged its foreign rivals with younger buyers.

"We have the ability," Vandyke said, "to affect preconceived notions of Ford.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100518/AUTO01/5180328/1148/auto01/-Idol--ads-crank-up-Fiesta-rollout#ixzz0oHf21frZ

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