Every automaker, like many politicians, wants to earn the favor of more of the burgeoning population of U.S. Hispanics. So when Ford got an unexpected opportunity to strike a blow in that regard, it took the chance — and created a moment, just as Nike struck when the Heat was hot. TV viewers of NBA Finals on ABC, between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, may have noticed that, during the last two games, the network ran a 30-second Ford spot for the new 2013 Escape utility vehicle — in Spanish, with English subtitles.
Network ad execs had noticed the huge penetration of Spanish-speaking viewers watching the first two games of the Finals, about one-sixth of the total audience — mainly concentrated in the Miami area. So they asked Ford if the brand wanted to take advantage of the exposure to a Hispanic audience in a mainstream, DVR-proof, primetime broadcast. Ford clearly viewed it as a coup and made a move that also seemed sort of unprecedented.
"They told us it was the highest penetration they were ever seeing of Hispanic viewership of a [non-soccer] sporting event in the U.S.," Matt VanDyke, Ford's director of U.S. marketing communications, told brandchannel. ABC and ESPN, he added, "were interested in testing and learning and observing how the audience would respond to in-language Spanish advertising and asked if we wanted to test and learn with them."
The Hispanic market is important for Ford just as it's launching the Escape. Latinos account for about 13 percent of U.S. purchases of vehicles in Escape's small-utility segment, slightly higher than their share of the overall American vehicle market. In fact, Ford already had been airing for a couple of weeks, on Univision, the spot that it ended up hurriedly adapting for use on ABC during the pro-basketball finals.
In the spot — a keeping-up-with-the-Gonzalezes type, produced tongue in cheek in the manner of the popular Spanish-TV telenovelas — a family of upscale Latinos fall apart with envy over the neighbors' new Escape. "Either you have it, or you want it," the Spanish voiceover concludes. And the ad ends with the slogan, "Llega mas Lejos," Spanish for Ford's new worldwide brand positioning and tagline, "Go Further."
VanDyke said the networks didn't give Ford a choice whether to go with English subtitles. The gambit seems to have worked just fine for Ford regardless.