Shops Pitch Ford Focus

NEW YORK At least three agencies are presenting ideas for the next Ford Focus campaign, as the automaker looks beyond the brand’s lead agency, JWT, sources said.

WPP Group’s JWT is competing against sister shops Ogilvy & Mather and Berlin Cameron and possibly one other agency, said sources. JWT and Ogilvy are working from their joint Dearborn, Mich., location, though other offices may be contributing. Berlin is based in New York. The agencies declined comment.

Ford declined to identify the shops but confirmed the search. “With all the stories to tell about this car and the growing importance of the small car segment in general, we wanted to get the most ideas on the table as we could, in addition to the ones we already have,” said a company representative.

“We’ve got a lot of opportunity with the new Focus,” the rep added. “It’s got real-world fuel economy.”

Major media spending on the Focus has fallen in recent years, along with sales. In 2003, Ford spent $88 million on Focus ads, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. By 2005, that figure was $54 million and last year’s total was $4 million, per Nielsen.

The 2008 Focus is among the first of the Ford models to offer the new Sync technology developed with Microsoft, which is a voice-activated option that controls text messaging, music and other features.

The Focus is part of a segment that, along with the Honda Civic, the Chevy Cobalt and the Toyota Corolla, skews younger and less brand loyal. The next campaign for the Focus is expected to play heavily on the Sync, as well as promoting the new, sportier, two-door Focus coupe.

Last year, the Focus sold 177,006 units per Autodata, but its sales have declined, from 253,000 as recently as 2002 since being introduced in fall 1999, in a live TV broadcast during the MTV Music Video Awards. It was featured onstage during a tour by pop star Ricky Martin in 2000. The Focus has also been featured in the Ford-sponsored American Idol TV show.

This year, Focus sales are down 3 percent, the same as the overall industry car segment.

—with Aaron Baar