Published December 03, 2012
DETROIT – Ford Motor Co will try to generate interest in its upscale Lincoln vehicles with an ad campaign that draws on the brand's heritage and includes its first-ever Super Bowl spot.
The campaign, which launches Monday, features a 60-second TV commercial that opens with an image of an actor playing Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. president after whom the brand is named.
The second-largest U.S. automaker is also relaunching the brand under its original name, the Lincoln Motor Co.
"This is how Lincoln started. This is how we will become great again," the automaker says in print advertisements that will appear in major newspapers and online media Monday.
Chief Executive Alan Mulally as well as Jim Farley, Ford's global marketing chief and new head of Lincoln, will mark the launch at an event in New York's Lincoln Center Plaza on Monday.
Two decades ago, Lincoln was the top-selling luxury nameplate in the United States. But in 2011, its vehicle sales were just 85,643 - less than half the amount sold by Lexus, Toyota Motor Co's upscale brand.
Ford is determined to show a different side to a brand that has developed a musty image over time. The goal is to attract younger, more progressive buyers by offering more personalized service, glossier showrooms and fresh designs.
By the end of the month, dealers will receive the 2013 MKZ sedan, the first of seven new or refreshed Lincoln models that will be launched by 2015. Ford is also laying the groundwork to launch the brand in China, to take advantage of a growing appetite for luxury cars in the world's largest car market.
The automaker is reworking the service standards for its roughly 325 U.S. Lincoln dealers, taking cues from boutique hotels as inspiration. Ford is providing perks such as "date nights" to people who test-drive a Lincoln car.
The MKZ competes with Cadillac's CTS and the Lexus ES.
Initially, Ford sought to set Lincoln apart from the Ford brand in its U.S. marketing strategy, not unlike the distinction between Volkswagen AG and its top-tier Audi brand.
But Ford's successful turnaround under Mulally could revive interest in the brand, executives said.
"Traditionally, in North America, you try to hide your mainstream brand, but every wealthy person in America knows what happened to Ford," Farley said in an interview in Beijing in August. He took on charge of the Lincoln brand on December 1.
"That's not to say we're going to make Ford a huge part of the marketing, but we're also not going to hide it," he said.
Some analysts and executives have expressed skepticism about the brand's prospects. In an interview with The Detroit News last year, General Motors Co Chief Executive Dan Akerson said Ford "might as well sprinkle holy water" over the brand.
But Ford's smaller rival, Chrysler Group LLC, has benefited from its iconic Super Bowl ad in 2011 that featured the tag line "Imported from Detroit."
The 2013 Super Bowl game, the most heavily watched annual event on U.S. television, will be broadcast by CBS Corp, which is selling 30-second ads for as much as $4 million.
Ford decided not to advertise during the 2012 National Football League championship game, although its rivals GM and Chrysler did.
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Maureen Bavdek)