Bad Advertising Traffic & Conversion

Bad Advertising – Ford Needs to “Learn One”

I think you might want to sell your Ford stock, if you have any, and if selling the stock results in anything more than pocket change (last trade was at $7.09). Here's why. One of the things I talk about is the general ineffectiveness of unmeasured, broad-market advertising as compared to the measured performance you […]

I think you might want to sell your Ford stock, if you have any, and if selling the stock results in anything more than pocket change (last trade was at $7.09).

Here's why.Ford - Drive One

One of the things I talk about is the general ineffectiveness of unmeasured, broad-market advertising as compared to the measured performance you can get from Direct Response.

Okay, not all ads have to be direct response.

Oh wait a minute…YES THEY DO!

Because when you give someone a very motivating reason to take a specific and identifiable action — RIGHT NOW — you know exactly how effective your advertising is.

And you know that if you spend a dollar, and you're making two (or ten), that you can continue to spend more dollars. But if you make only 50 cents, you stop.

Simple logic, right?


It was in the last page of the Marketplace section of the Wall Street Journal on Monday in an article about Ford's new marketing efforts. ("Ford Aims to Wow Key Group: Its Dealers", )

In a meeting with Ford Dealers, Ford's Vice President, Jim Farley said "Get your people excited!"

Excited over WHAT?

People — even car salespeople — have built in BS detectors that come especially alive when they're being "sold to", so THEY KNOW when they're being lied to, or are fed a line of garbage that can't be supported.

You know that's happening when people TELL you to be excited, or use adjectives like "Amazing", "Great" and "Fantastic" in their marketing copy.

Empty words.

So what does Ford want you to be excited about?

Their new marketing campaign based around this slogan: "Ford: Drive One"

Oooh. Exciting.

Getting out your checkbook yet?

Ready to trade in your Toyota?

Farley goes on to say that they are going to stick with this marketing theme "for a long time".

This paragraph stunned me:

  "While the new campaign relies on big, traditional
  media buys to get out the message — the first ads
  appeared during American Idol last week — Mr.
  Farley is also hoping to spark a ripple effect by
  word of mouth. But he acknowledged that it could
  be five years before the company knows how
  well the 'Drive One' themes resonate with


In 2006 and 2007, Ford lost a combined $15.3 BILLION. And they want to wait five years to see if this slogan works?

Apparently, this new stick-to-it-for-five-years idea is a "radical departure from previous campaigns" which were "dreamed up in the executive suite."

I don't see why this is much better. And the fact that they're going to stick with it for five years — and risk potential losses of $38 billion at their current rate — makes it substantially worse.

So how did Ford try to excite its dealers? It was at their annual dealer convention…

  "Ford Engineers gave side-by-side demonstrations
  highlighting the 'solid' sound of shutting Ford doors
  compared with competitiors. Others filled dealers
  in on the type of paint that resists nicks and scratches,
  and on environmentally friendly innovations like
  soy-based seat foam.

  This is to make believers out of them," John Felice,
  Ford's general marketing manager, said of the pitch
  to dealers."

If you're not shaking your head in disbelief right now, or laughing out loud (or crying, in case you actually DO own Ford stock), then there's a big lesson here for you.


Unless you have a few billion dollars to waste (which I'm guessing you don't), then you should:

* ALWAYS MEASURE – Make all your advertising measurable. If you don't believe me, then believe Dan Kennedy. In his book "NO BS Direct Marketing" he says "From now on, ye shall spend no dollar withouit tracking the ROI (return on investment)". How do you do that? Use Google Analytics — free — at the very least.

* TEST everything. Don't run just one ad, run two. Or four. And see which one pulls best. Use the ability in Adwords to run multiple ads in the same ad group, if you use Adwords. Or, use Google's Website Optimizer for your landing page. Both are Free (even for Ford).

* FAIL FAST. Run a test. As soon as you reach statistical significance (that means you've got enough results to be sure one ad is better than the other) KILL the bad ad and start trying to beat the good one with a new ad. But as soon as you see something is not working, kill it.

* DON'T TELL PEOPLE how to feel. Use your marketing to MAKE THEM feel it.

* Or better yet, KNOW YOUR CUSTOMER and figure out what they're feeling. Then magnify those feelings to their advantage and yours (after all, if you solve their problem with your product, you're BOTH happy, right?)


So, what can Ford do to get on a better track? Well, I see it this way. They've got 50 states and probably dozens of dealer groups (collections of dealer who are geographically close) in this country alone.

That's a great opportunity for testing, don't you think?

1) I'd run a contest between the groups. Take a year, and get each group (or state, or whatever unit they want to work with) to develop their own advertising campaigns.

2) Encourage radical thinking. Require measurement and testing. (Demand better than "Drive One" …LOL)

3) See which group has the largest increase in advertising over the course of that year.

4) Roll out that campaign nationwide.

5) First prize: HUGE INCREASE in sales for the winning group DURING the contest.

6) Bonus prize: All the dealers in that region share in a slice of the increased profit (or reduced loss, as the case may be) over the first two or three years that the campaign runs nationwide.

You want EXCITEMENT from the dealers?

Let's see how that kind of CASH motivates them.

Anyway, I do hope you take all of this to heart. Ford is going to pay billions of dollars for this lesson. Even if you don't ever "Drive One" of their cars, I hope you "Learn One" of their lessons.

You may as well, because I doubt that Ford will.

To Your Success,

–Mark Widawer

P.S. Do you believe that some Ad executive actually got paiid to come up with Drive One? I've no idea how much, or if Ford paid some agency, or just one of their own execs in the corporate suite to come up with this.

Either way, if you're a Ford shareholder, write the company and tell them to get their act in gear. If you're not, vent here instead. Leave your comment at .