Many EVangelists believe that the plodding progress of plug-in sales has a lot to do with the automakers’ minimal marketing efforts. So it’s welcome news that Ford has launched a new ad campaign for its Focus Electric.
It seems to be a substantial buy (although Ford declined to talk about budgets), with TV ads running in eight major US metro areas on a wide variety of different types of programs, and print ads running in newspapers and several categories of magazines.
However, it is a bit puzzling that Ford has chosen this moment to start advertising a car that went on sale in early 2012 (yes, these are the very first TV ads for the EV, according to PR firm Ogilvy). When we drove the Focus Electric, we found it to be a good entry-level EV, but it has had no major upgrade since its launch.
While competitors including Nissan and GM are developing improved versions of their EVs, with greatly increased range, Ford has made no mention of plans for a next-gen EV (despite your correspondent’s best efforts at a recent conference to badger Ford execs into saying something – anything – about EVs).
Why is little Cinderella being belatedly invited to the ball?
EV expert Chelsea Sexton, who often seems to have the inside scoop, opines that this is a “halo” ad, meant to establish Ford’s green credentials so it can get on with the business of selling customers the trucks and SUVs that they really want. This is borne out by the fact that the TV ad is actually half an ad – a fifteen-second spot that runs together with a spot for another Ford vehicle. It’s all part of a larger Ford campaign called By Design.
Sexton points out that Ford does need more CARB and CAFE credits, and that beginning in 2018, the CARB ZEV program will require automakers to actually sell EVs, not just offer them. “We will see some companies trying sincerely to do that, and some putting a lot of effort behind looking like they tried.”