If you’re among the 100-million-plus people who plan to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday, you’ll also see ads that go for about $10 million per minute, created to convince viewers buy everything from soft drinks to computer chips.
Per usual, a large portion of these spots will plug the latest cars and trucks. Ford, for example, has an almost two-minute spot that will air before the kickoff of the big game. But the auto maker’s spot won’t follow the traditional path of focusing on a new model. Instead, it’s about how the company’s mobility solutions can make your life easier.
The commercial features scenes of people getting stuck in various ways: a skier on a stalled chairlift, a man adrift on a lake after his outboard engine breaks down, a kid with a kite trapped caught in a tree.
“No one likes being stuck,” actor Bryan Cranston says in a voiceover. Ford products then predictably come to the rescue; an F-150 pickup pulls a Fusion sedan out of the snow, a Sync 3 navigation system helps a driver find a way around traffic, and a self-parking system steers a car into an empty space.
Ford concludes its commercial by positioning itself as a mobility provider as much an auto maker. “We’re going further so you can,” the ad says before flashing the phrases “Ride sharing … Electric vehicles … Bike sharing … Self-driving cars,” and ending with a futuristic scene of two passengers rolling along a coastal road in an autonomous vehicle.
While industry insiders and some tech enthusiasts may know that Ford has been aggressively positioning itself as a mobility provider, the message of Ford’s Super Bowl ad may be lost on the average football fan or car buyer.
“Those close to the auto industry know what we are doing at Ford about mobility services,” Chantel Lenard, Ford’s executive director of US marketing, told Forbes. “But those who aren’t close to it may not be thinking about Ford in that way yet, [so] the ad shows things that we’re working on now all the way into the future.”
What Would Henry Think?
The ad made me wonder what company founder Henry Ford—who is largely credited with transforming personal transportation a century ago—would think of this pivot away from Ford’s core business.
Elena Ford, Henry’s great-great-granddaughter and the company’s current VP of global dealer and consumer experience, told Forbes she believes it “would put a smile on his face. He was a pioneer of innovation and he was always one who challenged convention and was always forward-thinking.”
Henry Ford, she added, “was always trying to look around the corner and think ahead. He would be thrilled that we’re staying core to who we are and that we’re innovating and progressing a great consumer experience.”
Henry Ford also realized the power of advertising; an advertisement for the Model T in a 1908 edition of the Saturday Evening Post has been called “The Ad that Launched a Revolution.” While Ford’s Super Bowl ad almost certainly won’t have the same effect as the Saturday Evening Post ad 109 years ago, it’s a break from the norm of showing the latest sheet metal during the big game.
And given the big money spent on Super Bowl ads, it’s a bold move for Ford—and one I predict will be repeated by other auto makers in 2018.