Ford has decided a Super Bowl ad for Lincoln makes sense and confirmed the luxury brand will have its first ad during next year's big game with the help of celebrity Jimmy Fallon.
"We have to get noticed," Matt VanDyke, director of global Lincoln marketing, sales and service, said in an interview. "The Super Bowl is as massive as you can get and we need to make sure people know Lincoln is not what they thought it is."
It worked for Chrysler. The No.3 Detroit automaker got a huge boost in February 2011 from its 2-minute ad featuring rapper Eminem that captured a nation and contributed to 32 consecutive months of sales increases.
Ford's global marketing chief Jim Farley watched the buzz but steadfastly said that was not how the Ford brand would spend its money -- not enough bang for the buck for a company more focused on social media.
Farley has changed his mind when it comes to Lincoln, said VanDyke. "We convinced him if we do it in a unique way it can be very valuable."
The deal with late night talk show host Fallon was announced today by Farley and CEO Alan Mulally at an event in New York's Lincoln Center Plaza to announce a new advertising campaign: "Introducing the Lincoln Motor Company."
Ford is taking its luxury brand back to its roots with the decision to return to its original name: Lincoln Motor Co. and a new advertising campaign touting its heritage.
The name change is for marketing only -- dealers need not change their signs and there are no changes to the legal entity. The symbolic move further differentiates Lincoln from the mainstream Ford brand and will play well internationally when the luxury brand debuts in China in 2014.
"Today we are announcing a new beginning for a brand that has been part of our company and the American fabric more than 90 years," said Mulally. "The new Lincoln brand will be defined by great new luxury vehicles, such as the new MKZ."
The campaign is enormous in scope, VanDyke said. "In the next 100 days we will be everywhere." He declined to give a dollar figure. But 60-second Super Bowl ads went for $7 million this year.
The first ads debut today and feature images of Abraham Lincoln after whom the company was named when it was founded by Henry Leland in August 1915. A print, broadcast and digital media campaign starts today.
The campaign will also feature the Super Bowl ad. "It's all about scale," VanDyke said.
Fallon will curate and write the Super Bowl ad via social media. He will tell the Lincoln story from tweets from the public about the brand.
The creative process will start Wednesday at noon and Lincoln wants the input to be open, broad and completely random. Details will be on the Lincoln.com website Wednesday morning.
Fallon will take the material and use writing skills honed in his days as a cast member of Saturday Night Live to write the 60-second ad for the Super Bowl.
At this point there has not been a decision for Fallon to appear in the ad. "We needed someone with improvisational, creative comedy skills, and who has an audience and is active in social media," VanDyke said.
And while the partnership is with Fallon -- not "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" -- using the TV show to solicit input has not been ruled out.
"With all the actions we have planned, we can't be quiet," VanDyke said. "We have to go big and get people back on Lincoln's radar screen."
Everything is kicking off now in advance of the sale of the new 2013 Lincoln MKZ later this month, the first of four new Lincolns coming over four years in an effort to take Lincoln into a successful and distinct era again after the once-successful brand was allowed to languish.
Lincoln will also attempt to differentiate itself with "a new level of warm, personal and surprising experiences," Mulally said.
Other initiatives on the Lincoln.com website include the "Lincoln Host and "24/7 Concierge Service" that assign a personal concierge to each buyer to guide them during the shopping process and through their ownership.
Lincoln Date Night is a weekend test drive complete with dinner.
As part of a special promotion, the hand-raisers who pre-order an MKZ by Jan. 3 get a special gift that could be jewelry, sunglasses, wine or a night at a Ritz Carlton. Dealers have already asked for a way to continue to leverage the "Lincoln makers" program in the future, given its initial success with the MKZ, VanDyke said.
This is the first Lincoln campaign from HudsonRouge, the new WPP-owned Lincoln agency based in New York that was created to promote the brand. Lincoln also recently opened its own dedicated design studio in Dearborn.
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