Ford launches ad campaign celebrating workers, importance to economy

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is highlighting its critical role in the U.S. economy in a new ad campaign launching this week, days ahead of a planned restart of North American vehicle production.

The company released three spots under the title “Built for America,” a follow-up campaign to its “Built to Lend a Hand” commercials that offered customers payment relief amid the coronavirus crisis. The three new spots focus on Ford’s industry-leading domestic vehicle production numbers as well as efforts to mass-produce masks, gowns, ventilators and other protective equipment.

“We want to strike a note of optimism as we start to get back to work,” Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas and international markets group, told Automotive News. “It’s this connection between our company and the country. Our country collectively is going through a difficult time. Even in these difficult times, the U.S. workers and the country in general has been extremely resilient.”

The spots are meant to celebrate U.S. workers as Ford prepares to reopen most U.S. manufacturing facilities Monday.

None of the ads mention specific vehicles.

“We’re here for a reason, and it’s bigger than selling cars,” actor Bryan Cranston narrates in one spot, titled “Why We’re Here.” The commercial features images of nurses, firefighters, construction workers and farmers.

“There’s always some big challenge trying to take us out, to shake our resolve,” Cranston says. “If you’re out there fighting through it, we know 260,000 people who have your back.”

Another spot, called “The Reason,” highlights Ford’s factory workers in Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky, noting Ford employs more hourly workers than any other U.S. automaker. The third spot, titled “The Connection,” plays up the fact that Ford builds more vehicles in the U.S. than its competitors and highlights its personal protective equipment production efforts.

The commercials were created by ad agency Wieden+Kennedy New York.

“We’ve seen through social media and through our dealers the fact that more Americans are putting a renewed focus and understanding on where things are made,” said Matt VanDyke, Ford’s director of U.S. marketing. “I think there’s an increased appreciation for that.”

VanDyke said Ford will likely continue to run these types of ads after the coronavirus crisis subsides, and it will also continue to market individual vehicles.

“We’re making a really distinct choice to talk more about our brand and our role here building for America,” he said. “It’s a story we intend to tell over the long term, but you’ll also see us get back to … talking about the fantastic products we have.”

Subaru ad fights hunger

Since 2008, Subaru of America has fostered a marketing identity built around the idea of love. Now, the automaker is leaning on that emotion in a more active and direct way with its advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Subaru, along with its retailers and two independent distributors, made a donation of roughly $5 million to nonprofit Feeding America, which said the gift will provide 50 million meals to people in need across the U.S.

The automaker has made the donation the center of its newest TV commercial. It launched in late April.

Instead of ads based around vehicles or its lighthearted “Dog Tested” spots that would normally be on TV, Subaru’s advertising mix is being led by the spot that focuses on helping others.

“Vehicle advertising about cars and the reasons you can love our cars has definitely been replaced for a period of time about this bigger message,” Alan Bethke, Subaru’s senior vice president of marketing, told Automotive News.

The 30-second spot is simple and to the point. It’s made up of footage from previous Subaru commercials, including the 2020 Outback marketing campaign, as well as clips from volunteer events that Subaru and its retailers have held.

“We wanted to do something as fast as we could,” Bethke said, noting that there wasn’t enough time for Subaru and its ad agency, Carmichael Lynch, to create a spot with fresh footage. “We wanted to get the support into Feeding America quickly and to make a difference quickly. Part of that was to get the message out quickly.”

Other automakers have also altered their marketing messages during the pandemic.

Toyota began airing a spot titled “We Are Here for You.” Ford and Hyundai released commercials that detailed payment relief options for customers who lost jobs because of COVID-19.

In mid-March, Subaru began discussions about how it would respond to the pandemic from a philanthropic point of view, Bethke said. Subaru, which prides itself on its commitment to companywide volunteerism, as well as its annual Share the Love sales event, which raises money for charities, wanted to make a tangible difference. That led the automaker to Feeding America.

Subaru had worked with Feeding America before and donated around 1.7 million meals from 2015 through 2017, Bethke noted. Feeding America’s network of 200 affiliated food banks in the U.S. gives the organization a large reach, he said, and is a reason why Subaru decided to donate to it.

“We pinpointed hunger due to job loss and companies slowing down as a main society need,” Bethke said.

As for the new commercial, Bethke said there is not an end date.

“I think it is relevant for the situation of COVID and hunger,” Bethke said. “We don’t know how long that’s going to go on. Hopefully, it’s not a sustained thing, but who knows?

“It’s going to be a relevant message as long as unemployment is high, which it currently is, as long as people have lost income, which they have, and as long people are hungry.”

FCA taps musical acts to reach isolated consumers

As uncertainty about the coronavirus swept the nation in April, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles sought to provide “entertainment relief,” as North American marketing chief Marissa Hunter called it, with a weekly slate of musical performances from various artists on Facebook.

FCA, which has often turned to music as a connection point with consumers, partnered with Interscope Records to deliver #MusicMonday events in which viewers could enjoy live shows and interact with performers. The sessions, featured on the Facebook pages of FCA’s brands, were streamed on the Facebook Live Watch Party platform for three weeks beginning April 13.

On top of that, the automaker on April 9 debuted Ram Jam sessions, which will continue through May. The Ram Jam shows are separate from the Interscope partnership.

Hunter said brands still have an obligation to engage audiences with relevant and meaningful content during these trying times.

With many people sheltered in place and working remotely, Hunter said they are spending more time engaging in content on their social channels. That backdrop, she said, gave FCA the “unique opportunity to provide some entertainment” that reached a global audience.

The #MusicMonday program, which has ended, featured Dermot Kennedy, Sam Harris of the X Ambassadors rock band and The Struts.

All three acts are aligned with Interscope, a frequent FCA partner over the years. Each of the bands has worked with FCA on campaigns.

The list of Ram Jam headliners includes country music singers Jordan Davis and Tenille Townes.

“Even while things may be challenged right now, there are ways for us to continue to connect with people in a way that is meaningful and that adds value,” Hunter told Automotive News. “What we try to do day in and day out is find meaningful ways to connect with our audiences. I think it’s a principle that isn’t just a COVID principle, necessarily. It’s an overarching marketing principle.”

FCA began working with Interscope in the second week of March to pull the #MusicMonday shows together.

Hunter said the locations of the artists “presented a little bit of challenge just from a logistical and a coordination perspective, but we worked with the label, and we were able to do preshow testing with each of the artists and use that as a way to ensure the best backdrop and sound quality that we possibly could.”

The Ram Jam initiative was easier on the logistical front, Hunter said, because most of the artists are based in the Nashville area.

“If I was to measure the success of these programs, I would say that it’s really tied to the sentiment that we’re hearing, the appreciation that we’re getting,” Hunter said, “and the fact that what we’re doing is helping people as they’re dealing with this period.”

BMW ending European delivery for N.A. customers

Bimmer superfans who had the European delivery experience on their bucket list might want to step on the gas.

BMW is discontinuing the European Delivery program for U.S. customers starting in the fall, citing a lack of interest and growing demand for U.S.-made crossovers. The Bavarian automaker follows Audi, which discontinued its European delivery program last year.

Under the BMW European Delivery program, a customer picks a dealership, places an order, completes paperwork and travels to BMW’s Welt delivery center in Munich. The program includes 14 days of free insurance and registration, a tour of the automaker’s Munich factory and admission to the BMW Museum.

Once the customer is ready to return home, the vehicle is dropped off at one of 12 points throughout the continent for shipping to North America.

European delivery, which is also offered by Mercedes, Volvo and Porsche, has been around since the 1950s, when American troops wanted to import sporty European cars back to the U.S.

For BMW customers, the program is an opportunity to take a vacation, combined with a 5 percent discount on the base price of their vehicle. For automakers, it’s an opportunity to immerse customers in brand culture and build loyalty. And for dealers, it’s an opportunity to make some money without having to carry the vehicle in inventory.

In the U.S., BMW offers the Ultimate Delivery Experience at its Spartanburg, S.C., factory, BMW’s largest in the world. The U.S. factory builds the popular X line of crossovers, with about 70 percent of volume exported around the world.

The BMW Ultimate Delivery Experience includes classroom and on-track car control instruction at the BMW Performance Center, a plant tour and a visit to the BMW Zentrum Museum.

Subaru gets an exclusive with NBC streaming

With a new entertainment streaming service that’s lighting up TVs and phones in the U.S., Subaru of America has tapped into a fresh advertising medium to stay on consumers’ minds.

Peacock, NBCUniversal’s entry into streaming services, launched to certain Comcast subscribers April 15 and is expected to go nationwide July 15. Its content includes TV shows, movies, live sports and other NBC programming.

Peacock joins a growing group of streaming services including established players such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video as well as newcomers such as Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and the soon-to-launch HBO Max.

Subaru is the lone automaker among Peacock’s 10 sponsors. The others are Capital One, L’Oreal USA, Molson Coors, Verizon, Apartments.com, State Farm, Target, Unilever and Eli Lilly.

Peacock is offered with three subscription options: a free level that has ads; a $4.99-per-month premium level that has ads; and a $9.99 ad-free level. The two ad-supported levels will have five minutes of advertising or less each hour, according to Peacock.

For Subaru, with a marketing identity that capitalizes on its customers’ interpersonal relations, their dogs and their love of the outdoors, advertising on Peacock represents a new messaging forum.

“We think it gives us an advantage, at least in the launch window, of owning the [viewing] experience from an automotive perspective,” Jack Kelly, Subaru of America’s national integrated media manager, told Automotive News. “Getting our message out there without competitors in the same space was a big win for us.”

He declined to comment on the cost of the Peacock deal. But according to AdAge, an affiliate of Automotive News, a Peacock sponsorship costs advertisers $15 million to $25 million.

Kelly said Subaru and the other Peacock sponsors will be on an equitable rotation of ad time.

“Streaming is such a big part of the way people are viewing TV and consuming content,” he said. “There’s a real opportunity there. There are some instances where we can’t advertise on streaming services. This happens to be one where we can.”

Alan Bethke, Subaru of America’s senior vice president of marketing, said the brand has a long history with NBC and called the Peacock sponsorship a smart evolution for the automaker.

“It’s another example of bringing content in a way that consumers now want to consume content,” Bethke said. “Having Subaru be a part of that, in a good and unique way in the beginning, from a partner that we have a long history with, makes a lot of sense.”

Kelly noted that Subaru advertised on Hulu in the past, which gave the automaker experience with a streaming service and short, 15-second ads.

“In this instance, we’re taking that to the next level and trying to do some different style ads and see how they’re performing,” Kelly said.

As a launch sponsor, Subaru and the other nine companies will be able to work with NBCUniversal to creatively shape their ad experiences. That could result in ads of different lengths and an opportunity to see how new ad formats measure against more traditional ones.

As one example, Kelly pointed to pause ads. As the name implies, when a viewer pauses a program, a message from an advertiser is displayed.

“We’re working pretty closely with the NBCU team to see what’s possible,” he said.

More traditional 15- or 30-second ads will still be part of the mix.

Peacock is also allowing advertisers to be flexible in how they use their messages.

“If we want to go after auto shoppers, or in-market auto shoppers, versus someone who might be interested in the Subaru brand, we can tailor the messaging,” Kelly said.

Subaru can also choose its programming positioning. It can move its ads away from content it doesn’t want to be associated with — programming it deems too violent, for example — in the course of getting its message out.

Jaguar Land Rover puts 40% of U.S. staff on paid leave, suspends co-op advertising

Jaguar Land Rover’s North American arm is conserving cash by suspending co-op advertising for at least 90 days. It’s also putting roughly 150 employees — 40 percent of its U.S. work force — on paid leave for a month.

“In light of a partial suspension of our U.S. business operations and a continued decline in revenue, the company has placed a number of employees whose positions are significantly impacted by COVID-19-related circumstances on paid leave for one month, effective May 1, during which their pay and health care benefits will be maintained in full,” Jaguar Land Rover said in a statement emailed to Automotive News.

The company’s senior leadership in the U.K., including CEO Ralf Speth, has taken pay cuts as the automaker grinds through the stay-at-home orders that have closed plants, tech centers and dealerships.

“In coordination with our Retailer Cabinet, we have temporarily suspended the co-op advertising program for April-June to minimize advertising expenses during the slowdown in business and support retailers’ cash flow. It will be evaluated with the retailers and resumed when agreed upon,” said JLR, which has its North American headquarters in Mahwah, N.J.

Jaguar Land Rover’s plants are scheduled to start coming back online May 18. The company is in the midst of launching one of its most important vehicles, the 2020 Land Rover Defender. U.S. sales are still expected to start in late June.