‘Mad Men’ Actor Drives Lincoln

Mad Men actor John Slattery is only 48, but he looks 60. That makes him an intriguing choice for Ford Motor Co., which has tapped the TV adman to pitch the Lincoln brand in spots breaking Oct. 1 during Ryder Cup coverage.

It’s tough to separate Slattery from his anxious, philandering, heart-attack-prone Roger Sterling persona. That’s especially true when he delivers lines of copy that viewers could almost hear his character and Sterling Cooper creative director Don Draper paddling back and forth on the show over cigarettes and endless rounds of Canadian Clubs.

Even the new tagline for Lincoln, “It’s not just luxury. It’s smarter than that,” is Draperesque. Team Detroit created the campaign. (“Reach higher” was the old line.)

Three TV ads, one for the MKZ Hybrid sedan and two for the MKX crossover, are bathed in copper tones and reflective light. Slattery at one point is pictured in the reflection of the car’s gleaming paint. “If you are going to buy a new luxury car … shouldn’t there be something new about it?” asks Slattery sounding like a cool oracle of luxury.

The juxtaposition against the story line of Mad Men this season is kind of delicious for fans. Roger Sterling has just lost his prize ad account, Lucky Strike, and he is frantically trying to replace it before his partners find out. He could soon be driving a Studebaker instead of a Lincoln.

Ford has a major challenge with Lincoln. Having sold off Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, Lincoln, neglected for two decades, is Ford’s only premium/luxury play. It has announced that it is discontinuing the Mercury brand that has long flanked Lincoln at lower price points at Lincoln-Mercury dealerships. All this leaves Lincoln looking like the last son to run the family business after all his siblings left home to see the world.

The average age Lincoln buyer is well over 60. And while many baby boomers still think of Lincoln as the airport livery car, or the car you ride to your Uncle Morty’s funeral, the lineup has been rejuvenated with new products well received by the auto press over the last two years.

The MKX crossover is a legitimate challenger to the Lexus RX350 and Cadillac SRX, especially with a redone interior and high-tech telematics features that have been praised by many auto and technology critics as the best in the industry.

One of Slattery’s cooly delivered lines, during a touch-screen demo in the car, is: “Don’t be surprised if you haven’t seen technology this intuitive before.” Indeed, the final graphic on the screen is not a tagline, but “Lincoln.com,” an invitation for viewers to visit a redesigned Web site to learn about the techie Lincolns they probably didn’t know existed.

The cars have Wi-Fi hot-spot capability, as well as climate control, phone, navigation and music all integrated into a telematics system called “My Touch.”

Besides Ryder coverage, TV buys include Jimmy Kimmel Live, Glee and The Tonight Show, three programs that seem to embody the Gen X plus baby boomer audience Lincoln is chasing to counterbalance the hip-replacement crowd that usually shops a Lincoln dealership.

Print ads breaking in Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit, Forbes and Road and Track are bold and refreshingly and cleanly art directed with brief copy. One, for the MKZ Hybrid, which is shown huge on the page, is headlined, “Nobody’s Fool,” and simply reads, “Don’t let anyone tell you ‘luxury,’ ’41 miles per gallon in the city’ and ‘reasonably priced’ are contradictory terms.” Bravo for compelling brevity.

In what seems to be a parallel strategy to the company’s Ford brand, Lincoln.com includes a series of tech feature-focused videos starring Today Show gear and tech editor Paul Hochman. Ford has been successful in this approach using Discovery Channel Dirty Job host Mike Rowe to demonstrate features on Ford pickup trucks.

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