Ford Faces Print-Only Launch

Escape Intro Will Be Without TV as Automaker Respects Strike
DETROIT–The actors strike is putting a crimp in plans by Ford Motor Co. and its agency J. Walter Thompson to launch the 2001 Ford Escape.
Executives at both Ford and JWT are “pulling their hair out” because they are unlikely to have TV spots behind the new nameplate’s launch, one source said. “Print is going to back you up, but you can’t launch a brand new vehicle with just print,” the source said. “That’s crazy.”
But that’s the position Ford is in since it issued a directive last month declaring that the company and all of its ad agencies will not film any TV ads during the strike by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Ford executives expressed optimism that the strike could be resolved and spots could be produced in time for the vehicle’s September launch.
“We’re just sort of waiting it out to see what happens,” said Leisa M. Byars, truck/SUV brand communications manager for the automaker in discussing Escape launch plans.
Doner, Southfield, Mich., would be in a similar position with the launch of the Mazda Tribute, the sister vehicle to the Escape, had the agency not filmed the spots before the strike began. Doner had to complete the spots early in order to preview them cross-country to dealers before they broke July 26.
Ford’s major rival, General Motors, has left its TV options open and has filmed spots during the strike, saying in a statement that the company “has postponed shooting commercials whenever possible in recognition of this sensitive matter, but we must be equally sensitive to our competitive marketing positioning.”
TV behind the Escape was scheduled for next month. A print campaign breaks this week in the September issues of 15 magazines. The so-called “buzz campaign,” scheduled to precede the full advertising launch, has not been affected by the strike, Byars said.
The automaker created 15 two-page “advertorials” tailored to individual magazines, each with a sweepstakes aimed at that publication’s audience, said Stu Smith, Escape marketing manager.
For example, the two-page spread in Esquire carries the headline “Literary Escape” and offers a trip to the Maui Writers Retreat and Conference in Hawaii. K