New Ford ad campaign includes shot at Tesla

LAS VEGAS — By changing just three letters of a longtime slogan, Ford is going on the offensive.

The automaker this weekend will debut a new ad campaign, titled “Built Ford Proud,” in a series of print ads and television commercials that play up the company’s 115-year history and family heritage while taking shots at rival automakers, including Tesla, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler.

“The company’s got its swagger back,” Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.’s president of global markets, told reporters here. “We think customers are ready to hear directly from a company that says, ‘Here’s what we’re about, this is what makes us different, and we hope you like it.’ ”

The TV spots, which will first air Saturday during college football games and run through 2019, feature actor Bryan Cranston. Ford gave its dealers who gathered this week in Las Vegas a first glimpse of the ads.

In one spot, titled “The Future is Built,” Cranston pokes fun at companies that “talk about the future.”

“You see, talk doesn’t get things done. Building does,” he says over an instrumental of “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones. “So let the other guys keep dreaming about the future. We’ll be the ones building it.”

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In another commercial shown to dealers, featuring the Escape crossover, Ford takes aim at Tesla and its celebrity CEO, Elon Musk.

“It’s never been referred to as fancy,” Cranston says. “It’s never been launched into space. It’s never waited for anyone important on the tarmac. And it couldn’t care less, because the Ford Escape proudly sits in over 2 million garages. And that was intentional.”

A third commercial, which slowly zooms in on the company’s Blue Oval logo, targets brands such as Ram and Jaguar, as well as GM.

“It isn’t a deadly predator, or made-up creature,” Cranston says. “It doesn’t have wings, horns or teeth. There’s no self-appointed crown. It doesn’t repurpose someone else’s legacy. It’s not a metaphor, or the result of a merger. It’s none of those things. It’s our family name.”

The ads were developed by creative agency Wieden + Kennedy and are the first results of a new multiagency advertising model announced this month.

“They found a great voice for what we already knew was our voice,” Farley said. “I don’t know why we weren’t talking that way before. It really had emotional resonance I haven’t seen.”

The ads continue Ford’s partnership with Cranston, who first appeared two years ago in its Super Bowl commercial.

“I think he really captures that no-baloney, real honesty that frankly we don’t hear much of anymore,” Farley said. “We really wanted to have a theme that ties the whole lineup together.”

Ford is preparing a product blitz in the coming years that will include next-generation models of the Escape and Explorer, a freshened Super Duty, revivals of the Ranger and Bronco names, and a long-range battery-electric crossover.

Farley said the ad campaign doesn’t replace Ford’s “Go Further” tag line, or the popular “Built Ford Tough” slogan, which will continue to be used for its trucks.

In addition to the television ads, Ford is taking out print ads in publications including Automotive News, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

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