Lincoln’s ‘Social’ Super Bowl Spot; New Branding Strategy

Automaker unveils integrated campaign and in-house agency

Headshot of Christopher Heine

Lincoln has purchased a Super Bowl XLVII spot—its first commercial during the big game—that its marketing brass says will be “extremely social.”

Reps for the Ford Motor Company have been tight-lipped regarding additional details, but a few other major developments were revealed during a press junket in New York on Friday—including a dedicated in-house agency called HudsonRouge and a 60-second commercial, separate from the Super Bowl ad—that will begin airing tonight.

Set to appear during CBS’ Monday prime-time shows How I Met Your Mother and Two Broke Girls, the quick-cutting spot (scroll down to see it) opens with the top-hatted image of Abraham Lincoln, which shares a name with the brand, and then shifts into brief appearances by Lincoln drivers of yore like FDR, Clark Gable and Dean Martin. They loom against the backdrop of either a 2013 Lincoln MKZ midsize sedan or MKZ Hybrid. The brand hopes these models compete well for the dollars of well-to-do young adults who might otherwise buy a Lexus or an Acura.

“For the people we are going after, [the brand] doesn’t have relevance,” said Matt VanDyke, Lincoln’s director of global marketing.

John Pearce, chief creative officer of HudsonRouge, added, “We are not your dad’s or your crazy uncle’s Lincoln.”

The spot will also run in the coming days during ABC’s Modern Family, Fox’s X Factor and CBS’ 60 Minutes, among other TV programs. But the commercial is essentially the tip of the iceberg when it comes to an integrated campaign called “Introducing the Lincoln Motor Company.” Indeed, central to the initiative is rebooting the auto line from simply "Lincoln" back to the moniker it launched with in 1922.

It includes long-form copywriting to appear in print ads and via digital properties for newspapers like USA Today and The New York Times this week. The ads will run in the January 2013 issues of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Economist, Interview, Esquire, Vogue, Fast Company, Bon Appétit and W. The media buys will highlight Lincoln’s new social play dubbed “Hello. Again.” That piece of the campaign will entail earned media efforts on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and YouTube, while involving various offline drive events and “art installations” in major markets.

All in all, the campaign seeks the so-called aspirational consumer, or one-fourth of the luxury market with “unmet needs,” as Lincoln execs said. They are between 25 and 54 years old, make $125,000-plus and do not skew male or female, though the TV creative running tonight is dominated by images of men.

VanDyke said his team aims to rewrite luxury branding in terms of its digital strategy. “It’s now [more] editorial than how we’ve approached Web development in the past,” he said.

A social ads blitz is also in the queue. This week, the brand will run reach-block Facebook ads as well as Promoted Posts on the social site. Twitter users will see a Promoted Trend ad buy along with Promoted Tweets. A Lincoln rep added that Twitter will be the key partner in an important first-quarter 2013 marketing drive for the brand.

The integrated effort is the first for HudsonRouge, located on Park Avenue in New York in a 7,500-square-foot, 20th-floor space that 42 employees will call their office for the first time today. HudsonRouge will work in tandem with WPP’s Team Detroit to try to create a brand comeback story for Lincoln in 2013 that falls in line with recent triumphs by Ford and Chrysler. Lincoln reportedly saw sales dip 2 percent in the first half of this year compared to the same period for 2011—when the brand also saw revenues trending downward.

Teamwork between HudsonRouge and its WPP partners will be particularly important as Lincoln attempts to tackle China next year for the first time. Because of the wealth of data and experience WPP has in the Asian market, said Cameron McNaughton, president of HudsonRouge, “China doesn’t scare us. If it was just the 40 of us here in this office, there is no way I could say that.”

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.