Ford Plan in motion for TV infomercial

Ford Credit, a division of Ford of Canada, is blazing new trails in car marketing with the launch of its first corporate infomercial.An infomercial for the company's 24-month retail leasing program called The Plan, which features refinancing and buy-out options, hit...

Ford Credit, a division of Ford of Canada, is blazing new trails in car marketing with the launch of its first corporate infomercial.

An infomercial for the company’s 24-month retail leasing program called The Plan, which features refinancing and buy-out options, hit the airwaves on alpha-numeric services offered by Toronto cable stations late last month.

Developed as a test marketing vehicle for four independent dealers – Freeway Ford Sales and Birchcliff Lincoln Mercury in Scarborough, Ont., Dixie Ford in Mississauga, Ont. and Evans Lincoln Mercury Sales in Etobicoke, Ont. – the still-frame infomercials are now airing 130 times a week for an indefinite period.

The response has been overwhelming, according to Brian Pickering, general sales manager at Birchcliff Lincoln Mercury.

‘It’s been tremendous,’ Pickering says. ‘It has generated many more calls than we had ever anticipated.’

Peter Bowditch, Ford’s dealer leasing manager, admits that two months ago, he was skeptical as to whether infomercials could be a viable medium for marketing his company’s leasing program.

And with good reason, according to some industry analysts.

So far, infomercials have been the purview of bargain baubles and self-help gurus.

But Daniel Nowak, president of Edwards Sterling Pierce, set out to change all that.

Nowak, whose Mississauga-based company developed the infomercials, admits that, in the beginning, selling Ford on the idea was a challenge.

But after running a print and radio campaign for The Plan, which produced only moderate success, Nowak began toying with the idea of using 30-minute infomercials.

‘It provided an excellent medium to present customers with the details of the program,’ Bowditch says.

Now, Ford is considering developing an infomercial that could be used across the country.

‘It’s really revolutionary in the car industry,’ Nowak says. ‘Nothing like it has ever been done before.’

‘I think its success will open up the eyes of a lot of other high profile corporations,’ he says.

Rodger Hones, senior vice-president at The Global Television Network, characterizes the development as evolutionary, rather than revolutionary.

Hones says car makers have long been looking at non-traditional forms of marketing and communications, citing the use of direct mail video cassettes by companies such as General Motors.

‘I know that right now the financial services are also looking at infomercials,’ he says.

Others, however, such as Andrew Bergstrom, team leader of image and marketing at Volkswagen Canada, are skeptical.

‘We want to have as much credibility as possible in our advertising, and we’re not sure about the credibility of infomercials,’ Bergstrom says.

The infomercial project was a joint financial venture between the dealers and Ford Credit. SB