Inside a 75-year advertising relationship

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The amazing decision of Ford Motor Co. on Monday to have BBDO replaced by WPP as its leading creative advertising agency improves a relationship that began 75 years ago.

At that time, Ford's office J. Walter Thompson and Henry Ford were still the automaker. WPP and its predecessor have produced such memorable taglines as & # 39; There's a Ford in your Future & Ford, & # 39 ;, Ford has a better idea. and, of course, & # 39; Have you been driving a Ford lately … lately? & # 39;

In the early days of the car manufacturer, Henry Ford employed J. Walter Thompson to sell Model T & # 39; s, but after only two years they left their own way. Three decades later, when Ford started planning for his company to resume production after the Second World War, he was reassured that a large advertising agency would cost no more than a small copy. He stated, "Well, we might as well have a big one."

Ford therefore terminated its agency, Maxon Inc., and signed the inaugural formal agreement with JWT in December 1943. The agency even took over some of the automaker's ads in 1942, according to Ted Ryan, Ford Motor & # 39; s archives and brand manager for the heritage. .

In a letter to the headquarters of JWT in New York, Ford Motor said: "The conditions in your letter … are satisfactory and accepted … with the proviso that Ford … can terminate the agreement at any time by written or verbal notification to your company We are confident that the agreement … will prove mutually satisfactory. "

The deal was signed by Ford purchasing manager J. Walter Thompson, who happened to have the same name as the agency.

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In the decades that followed, JWT Ford helped launch many nameplates, including the Thunderbird, Mustang, Pinto, Taurus, Explorer, Ranger and Escort.

The first JWT campaign for Ford began in the winter of 1943-44. One ad showed a giant crystal ball with the caption: "There is a Ford in your future." Ad Age, a branch of Automotive News, said the slogan was meant to reflect "at least partial peace and the lifting of restrictions and restrictions in civilian life" and was also "tuned" to "accelerated eagerness to drive new cars." ; s. "A similar advertisement debuted in 1945 and showed a long, winding road in the famous crystal ball with caption:" You go high, wide and handsome … There is a Ford in your future. " Ryan said the campaign teased the new car that would be produced when the automaker switched from war production to the "arsenal of democracy". back to passenger car & # 39; s.

"The Mustang," 1965. Photo credit: Ford Motor Company

TV commercial

Ford & # 39; s first TV ads aired in September 1946, according to the 1976 book The Public Image of Henry Ford: An American Folk Hero and His Company. In the early sixties, it had commercials for the Ford Falcon with the gang "Peanuts", which represents the debut TV performance of Charlie Brown and his friends, before their now ubiquitous animated holiday specials later that decade.

With the help of JWT, Ford unveiled the Mustang at the New York World's Fair on April 17, 1964, with big fanfare and national advertising via newspaper, magazine and TV, Ryan said. The sports car was a sensation and surfaced in several stories in Newsweek and Time and even the movie Goldfinger, in which James Bond is chased by a white Mustang convertible. The new Mustang received the Tiffany Award for Excellence in American Design in 1965, the first car ever to be honored by Tiffany & Co., and JWT praised this achievement in an advertisement with gold certification and a white Mustang.

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"Ford has a better idea" was another popular tagline that the automaker used in different ads. A 1968 print ad contained a light bulb instead of the & # 39; O & # 39; in Ford & # 39; s name. The tag line was also used in a TV commercial for the Mustang from 1968.

"Have you been driving a Ford … lately?" was perhaps the most iconic slogan created by JWT. The campaign's musical tagline ran until 1994, almost 11 years after the launch. In an advertisement for the Taurus SHO from 1993, a middle recording of the vehicle is endorsed: "Think of it as caviar for the hungry power." Have you been driving a Ford lately? "

1968 "Ford has a better idea" print ad. Photo credit: Ford Motor Company

Agency evolution

Ford's relationship with the agency was not always smooth, but the companies managed to solve problems.

"Henry Ford II once wanted the management to dismiss us, but they would not do that," Peter Schweitzer, the then CEO of JWT, told Automotive News in 2003. He said Ford's lieutenants told him, "Look, they're the best desk, give us time and we make it."

WPP came into the picture in 1987 when it bought JWT for $ 566 million. In 2006, the Detroit Team (now Global Team Blue) formed a joint venture of five Ford agencies: JWT, Ogilvy & Mather, Y & R, Wunderman and Mindshare.

In 2011, the then CEO of Team Detroit, George Rogers, who founded the Ford-focused agency, said the concept was "partly about efficiency" with a structure that allowed the agency to be "100 percent agnostic" about specific marketing communications services and media. The joint venture paid off and the automaker was voted Marketeer of the Year by Ad Age in 2010, when Ford made the biggest profit in more than a decade. In addition, Team Detroit created the 2011 Ad Age A list of successful agencies.

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"WPP is and has been a valued partner for decades and leads us in our efforts to connect with our customers", told Joy Falotico, vice president and chief marketing officer of Ford Group this week in an e-mail to Automotive News . "WPP has developed strong campaigns over the years because they understand Ford and our customers very well." An example of this is "Built Ford Tough", which still characterizes the F-series, America's best-selling trucks, for 41 years. & # 39;

Officials from WPP North America refused to speak to Automotive News about Ford's decision to change its leading authority after a five-month review. Ford said it will continue to use WPP for its US Tier 2 dealer advertising, media planning, media purchasing, shopper and performance marketing, website development, customer relationship marketing and multicultural marketing.