DETROIT — The first national advertising campaign for the 2015 Ford F-150 will begin airing Wednesday to tout the capability of the new truck. Notably absent in the first three TV spots is any mention of the fuel economy figures for the lighter, aluminum-bodied pickup.
It is the largest and most diverse campaign Ford has ever had for its popular pickup truck that will end 2014 as the best-selling truck in 38 years — look for an ad commemorating that feat in the new year, as well.
The new truck is rolling into dealerships now — more than half should have one truck in stock by now — but it will take a few months for all dealerships to have a full supply.
Usually the automaker wants a larger supply of new vehicles on lots before a new ad campaign breaks, but Ford wanted to debut the first spots during college football playoffs.
Football is a big audience among truck buyers, and there is no more important vehicle to Ford right now than the F-150. It is considered a gutsy move to remake a best-selling work truck using lighter-weight aluminum. The ad campaign must convince customers this is the best F-150 Ford has ever made.
Ford is battling for customer acceptance, but the more than 800,000 trucks configured online show the largest potential demand of any Ford product to date. Ford is also battling for Wall Street acceptance in the face of concerns about the higher cost of aluminum as well as the cost and downtime at the two plants that had to be gutted and retooled to make the new truck. And Ford is battling for critical acceptance as it was named truck of the year by the Detroit Free Press, but lost to the Chevrolet Colorado as Motor Trend truck of the year.
The first three commercials focus on the durability of the new truck with an updated "Built Ford Tough" shield that slams to the ground at the end of each spot. The message Ford wants to scream: This is not pop can-weak aluminum; this is military grade, more dent-resistant-than-steel aluminum that has withstood extreme testing.
The first three ads will air during college games Thursday and the championship game on Jan. 12. Ford does not plan to show an F-150 spot during the Super Bowl.
Switching from steel to aluminum for the body of the 2015 F-150 reduced the weight by about 700 pounds, which has improved fuel economy by 5-29 percent from the outgoing model. But the Ram 1500 with a diesel engine retains the title for best mileage in the segment, getting 28 mpg on the highway.
Chantel Lenard, Ford director of U.S. marketing, said there are more spots coming, including one on fuel economy due in the new year. The fuel-efficiency spot was shot after the others because Ford had to wait for the Environmental Protection Agency to confirm the official mileage figures of the new truck. Ford made the figures public Nov. 21. The most efficient version, with a 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 engine, gets 19 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway and 22 mpg combined. While it does not beat the Ram EcoDiesel, it is the best among gasoline-powered pickups.
This rare period of low gasoline prices should not prevent customers from wanting a fuel-efficient truck, said Doug Scott, Ford Truck Group marketing manager. He does not see a payoff for a diesel engine right now because the high cost of diesel fuel makes it hard to recoup the extra investment even with better mileage. But unlike a Toyota Prius hybrid in a segment dependent on fuel prices, mileage is just one of many reasons to buy a pickup, he said.
Capability and durability are the top concerns of truck buyers, Lenard said.
Ford continues to use the voice of actor Denis Leary in the ads, but drops the smart-aleck rant for a more positive, forward-looking message, said Toby Barlow, chief creative officer for Team Detroit, Ford's advertising agency.
"This is a truck with big claims," Barlow said. "We didn't want to be shy about it."
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