Ford Focus puts the squeeze on credits

So you're launching a new car into the Canadian marketplace. Naturally, you've got 30-second brand spots running in prime time, but you'd like to add some impact to the TV campaign. What do you do?...

So you’re launching a new car into the Canadian marketplace. Naturally, you’ve got 30-second brand spots running in prime time, but you’d like to add some impact to the TV campaign. What do you do?

Well, if you’re Ford Motor Company of Canada, you ask for a little squeeze.

Explanation: Many U.S. network shows end with what’s called a "squeeze" or a "pull-back." Essentially, the closing credits are squished into a box on one side of the screen. On the remainder of the screen, the broadcaster offers a preview of next week’s exciting episode, or spotlights the shows coming up later that same evening.

Last fall, as part of the launch campaign for a new vehicle called the Focus, Ford purchased some squeeze time from CTV, sponsoring the previews for a number of top-rated shows.

Among them was White House drama The West Wing. The preview would open with the words "Focus on The West Wing," and conclude with the campaign tagline, "Expect more." One of the Ford Focus brand-sell spots (created in Europe by Young & Rubicam) would then air immediately following the sponsored preview.

This unique strategy garnered more attention for the ads than they might have attracted on their own, says Michael Dougherty, vice-president, associate media director with The Media Edge in Toronto, which executed the Ford Focus plan.

The Focus is an entry-level car available in several different models – three-door, sedan and wagon. As such, it has more than one target purchaser: The three-door is aimed at first-time car buyers in the 18-34 range, while the sedan and wagon appeal more to the 25-54 age group.

In planning the campaign, The Media Edge sought the program properties that fit best with both of these audiences. Spots for the three-door, for instance, ran immediately after the Focus-sponsored previews of Ally McBeal. The wagon and sedan spots, meanwhile, followed previews of The West Wing, a show that attracts older viewers.

In addition to sponsoring program previews, Ford ran a Focus promotion tied to CTV’s prime time soap, The City, offering viewers the chance to win a trip to the Grammy Awards. The automaker has also partnered with MuchMusic, arranging for Focus to sponsor the latter’s SnowJob event.

The television strategy for the Quebec market has been quite similar. Ford Focus sponsored previews of Société Radio-Canada’s popular weekly serial, Virginie, and – as on CTV – followed those with 30-second brand-sell spots.

Ford also joined forces with TVA and the popular clothing chain Les Ailes de la Mode on a large-scale promotional program.

While the preview sponsorships and other promotional activities definitely succeeded in raising awareness of the Ford Focus advertising, Dougherty says that clients must always tread carefully when using such vehicles to heighten the impact of a brand campaign.

"I still think the core is the 30-second commercial," he says. "You have to be careful you don’t stray too far from that, or you end up spending more money on the promotion – and suddenly it’s only the promotion [that viewers] have awareness of."

Also in this report:

- Shorter formats a double-edged sword: By opting for spots of 15 seconds or less, advertisers can stretch their advertising dollar — but they may also be contributing to the problem of clutter p.TV1

- CCM arouses interest with sperm spot p.TV4

- Painting the smaller canvas: How creatives make their mark in 15 seconds or less p.TV4

- Red Rose resurrects brand with funeral spot: Retires ‘Only in Canada…’ tagline in favour of ‘A cup’ll do you good’ p.TV6

- Jetta campaign a brand-new love story: Automaker bids farewell to popular Phil and Loulou characters p.TV10

- Is TV worth the money? p.TV12

- BTV blurs line between editorial, advertorial: Companies featured on business show pay about $10,000 for repackaged material p.TV13

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group