Ford Ad Knocking Bailouts Takes on a Life of Its Own; and a Final Goodbye to Doug

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Ford has created a mini-tempest by pulling a TV ad (above) from its Drive One series in which a buyer of its F-150 truck credits the company for not accepting a federal bailout in 2009 when General Motors and Chrysler did. Or, looked at another way, the customer in the ad himself, Chris McDaniel, is creating the mini-tempest.

Detroit News columnist Daniel Howe began the row by suggesting that the ad, which was launched in early September, was pulled by Ford “after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating” the Obama administration’s bailouts of Ford’s chief rivals.

Ford spokeswoman Meghan Keck told brandchannel that there was “no pressure involved” in Ford’s decision and that the spot featuring McDaniel was rotated on and off the air just like other ads in the series, which features real Ford customers answering “questions” at a staged press conference.

In the ad, McDaniel said that he “wasn’t going to buy another car that was bailed out by our government. I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose or draw. That’s what America is about.”[more]

For Ford, the matter is sensitive because CEO Alan Mulally and other Ford executives publicly backed the bailouts when they were made, even though the company didn’t participate, and have affirmed their support since then, even as GM and Chrysler have regained strength in the marketplace vis a vis Ford.

Strategically, the company never has publicly made a big deal of the fact that it chose to forego government money and rely on its own wits instead, but Ford marketers have understood that a significant factor in the company’s surge in market share and popularity over the last three years has been because American consumers have been rewarding them for that decision.

But McDaniel isn’t bound by Ford’s balancing act, and, in the wake of publicity about the ad, the San Diegan has been free to create a mini-platform to critique the Obama administration, including a couple of videos on YouTube and appearances on Sean Hannity’s shows.

“I’m just a red, white and blue American,” McDaniel said this week on Hannity’s radio show. He talked about how he and his wife had lost their home because they could no longer afford the mortgage and have fared without government assistance. “We downsized and went to work [on their situation]. And everything’s been better since then.” So he could afford the new truck that Ford asked him about.

“Why can’t our government get that message?” about austerity and living within one’s means, he asked.

By pulling the ad out of rotation, even as a routine decision, Ford seems to have sacrificed a bit of its accumulated goodwill with Americans who never have been comfortable with the bailouts. In response to a skeptic, Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, tweeted, “We don’t make advertising decisions based on pressure,” and also, “Why would we spin it? If we had to yank it, it wouldn’t still live on our YouTube channel, would it?”

Speaking of cutting marketing ties, Monty released the final video today (below) in Ford’s long-running Focus Doug series about the 2012 Focus.

True Doug aficionados should have a Kleenex handy when they see the shelved puppet’s “farewell to arms” spot, which consists mainly of flashbacks of the other videos and the repartee between the orange puppet and his handler, “John.”

“Thanks for the good times, John,” Doug signs off, a day after the next-to-last video in the series showed him stealing a Focus and leaving John alone ” — and the car.”

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