The ad campaign isn’t intended to preach or shame or scare.
Instead, Ford Motor Co. said, the #FinishStrong 30-second ad simply spotlights the importance of protecting fellow Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. It will run 20 times during college and pro football games over the first three days of January.
Ford, one of many manufacturers hit hard when the country shut down in March for two months at the start of COVID-19, said it diverted approximately half the TV budget initially devoted to the 2021 F-150 pickup during that time period. It’s a multimillion-dollar spend.
Ads for the all-new F-150 will begin on Friday, too.
The ad is designed to inspire Americans to follow established safety protocols by spotlighting our sense of humanity and patriotism, the company explained prior to release.
“Let’s hold the line, protect it, fight for it, sacrifice for it. Let’s look out for each other. We are so close,” narrator Bryan Cranston says. “Soon we will be what we were. … Let’s finish strong.”
The ad starts with images of children, a barber, a soldier, health care workers, vaccine production and then features a return to a packed concert stadium, dancing, a wedding, a rodeo, football and hugs without masks.
“We’re in this together and Ford’s goal since the pandemic started has been to try to help save lives,” said Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas & International Markets Group, in a news release. “While many are weary from the challenges 2020 has thrown at us, now is the time for us to pull together, protect each other and finish strong until COVID-19 vaccines arrive more broadly. Lives are on the line.”
The 117-year-old automaker had announced it ordered ultra-cold freezers in November to store vaccines for workers who want them.
If more Americans embrace COVID-19 mitigation protocols, such as wearing masks, at least 50,000 lives could be saved over the next three months, according to the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, Ford noted.
“We feel like we have a credible voice to convey this message because we’re a trusted brand and that we’ve put our money where our mouth is since the beginning when it comes to trying to help in this effort,” said Mark Truby, chief communications officer at Ford.
The company has been a leader in the fight against COVID-19. It has produced 50,000 ventilators, shipped 20 million face shields, built 32,000 powered air purifying respirators, created 1.4 million washable isolation gowns and manufactured more than 50 million face masks, said Jim Baumbick, vice president of enterprise product line management at Ford.
“When the country has had a time of need or a time of crisis, we’ve always kind of been there. It’s wired into our DNA,” he said. “At Ford, we feel personally invested in trying to help the country through this.”
He emphasized that more people are dying daily now than were lost in Pearl Harbor or on 9/11 and the total loss has exceeded World War II battle deaths, Baumbick said. “We’re in the middle of a war.“
Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford, has publicly committed to spending the profits from the personal protection equipment on making and donating masks to communities in need. Ford just started in December making children’s face masks.
Many white-collar Ford workers will be remote until July. The company, which employs the most hourly workers in the automotive industry in the U.S., has created education campaigns to encourage employees to practice safe behavior outside of work as well as in offices and factories.
“The goal is really to try to help shift a change in sentiment,” Truby said. “Rather than looking at things as a political issue or kind of a partisan issue, how do we come together to try to help save lives and finish these next few months that are going to be so critical in the spirit of protecting each other.”
Truby said, “There is light at the end of the tunnel, even though it’s a really tough period. … We hope that people are inspired or it makes them think a little bit.”
Mohamad “Catfish” Baidoun of Dearborn Heights, a Ford salesman at Taylor Ford in Taylor, told the Free Press he appreciated hearing news of the safety awareness ad.
“Honestly, it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “This is about everybody taking care of each other, not just about doing for yourself but for other people. Help your neighbor. That’s the American way.”
His wife has recovered from COVID-19, “thank God,” and he quarantined and then tested three times before returning to the dealership. And now, more than ever, even strangers appreciate support of one another during these tough times, he said.
Ford CEO Jim Farley, who has praised employees for their contribution to helping contain the spread and keeping front-line workers safe, tweeted a COVID-19 message from his wife in early December.
The ad was produced by Hollywood movie director Peter Berg, who made a documentary for Ford earlier this year.
While various companies have created inspirational ad campaigns during this pandemic, advertising experts praised Ford and noted that now is more important than ever because the public is fatigued.
“Ford is a brand that has positioned itself as a brand built on pride. It’s a proud brand,” said Marcus Collins, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. “They still bear the family name and that says a lot. At the very least, it feels human. Running spots about ‘let’s do this together’ in this way aligns to the brand’s mythology and seems to make a lot of contextual sense.”
Using prime football time — in this case, during the Citrus Bowl on ABC and the Peach Bowl, Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl on ESPN plus during Fox NFL games — makes a huge statement about the company’s commitment, said Bob Kolt, a professor of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University.
“It’s an image spot to show they care,” he said. “People want to do business with companies that they feel good about. We’ve changed as a society. It’s not transactional, it’s more relationship-oriented. Ford’s trying to create a relationship at a unique time with the general public. It’s a good strategy. Those bowl games cost a lot of money. It’s a big investment.”
Berg said his goal with the ad is to inspire Americans to remain vigilant.
“The COVID pandemic has tested us all in ways we could not have imagined a year ago,” Berg said in a news release. “People are weary, beat down, and it would be easy to let our guard down now. But we have to keep fighting for each other; we’re almost there.”
Ford has a 60-second version of the ad running on social media. The company said it may consider extending the network buy for the special COVID-19 spots. They were made in a collaboration between Wieden + Kennedy and Civic Entertainment Group in less than one week. As company officials learned of the strain on hospital workers heading into the Christmas holiday, Ford decided to take action and try to help.