Keith Sings the Praises of Ford

Country star Toby Keith makes his debut as Ford Motor Co.’s newest pitchman in a $70 million-plus J. Walter Thompson campaign that breaks tonight on ABC’s Monday Night Football.

In addition to the new national spot, seven other commercials will be used by Ford dealer associations on a regional basis, said George Piliouras, senior partner and executive creative director at JWT in Detroit.

All the spots feature a song Keith wrote for the campaign. The spot that breaks tonight shows the performer in various locations, from a city rooftop to a farm to a recording studio. “I’d rather walk 10 miles, be down on my luck, than drive around the block in another kind of truck,” he sings.

JWT creatives attempted to re-cre ate the look and feel of Keith’s music videos to make the spots feel less like traditional commercials, Pil i ouras said. The work continues the division’s long-running tagline, “Built Ford tough.”

Keith, who said he drove a Ford truck before striking the deal, is writing more songs for future ads touting the client’s models.

Keith will help promote Ranger, F-150 and F-Series Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs, as well as E-Series van and wagon models. Ford’s sport utility vehicles and minivans are not a part of the Keith campaign.

Tom Grill, communications man ager of the Ford Dealer Association Fund, would not reveal the terms of the multiyear deal with Keith. While the auto maker joined forces with country musician Alan Jack son for a similar deal that ended three years ago, “it was not anywhere this ex tensive,” Grill said.

On a national basis, Ford spent about $140 million on its truck brands in 2001, while dealers spent about $90 million, per CMR. Dealers are likely to spend upward of 80 percent of that budget on theKeith effort, according to Grill.