‘Built Ford Proud’: Automaker Brings Back Swagger in Major Campaign

Ford Bryan Cranston

If it hasn’t been obvious lately that there’s a crucial battle going on for the future of the automotive business between Silicon Valley and the traditional auto industry, Ford’s new omnibus marketing campaign draws a type of line in the sand.

After actor Bryan Cranston plays a number of roles in mini-vignettes that make fun of the future-casting hype behind Silicon Valley’s every move, in the new main ad for Ford, Cranston is seen in a very familiar setting behind the wheel of a Ford that is going places fast.

“Let the other guys keep dreaming about the future,” he mutters in a sort of throw-down to the tech wizards as he pilots a Ford F-150 across a dusty desert-like landscape, set against the music of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.” “We’ll be the ones building it.”

The ad also includes glimpses of “maker” references such as Ford’s pioneering River Rouge manufacturing complex near Detroit, an old Ford Mustang, some of its new autonomous-driving technology, and a snazzy graphic that promise Ford will be authoring the “mobility” solutions for cities.

Other ads take shots at the digital tech titans who would take over the auto industry by making fun of entrepreneurs in pursuit of flying cars and at Elon Musk, who wants to fly to Mars. The ad notes that Ford’s Escape SUV hasn’t been out of the stratosphere but that there are 2 million of them sitting in American garages.

The ads are the major part of Ford’s new swagger-based marketing campaign under the banner “Built Ford Proud,” which, of course, takes a page from the brand’s long-running “Built Ford Tough” tagline for its F-150 pickup truck line.

The campaign is the first effort out of the chute in its new creative partnership with Wieden & Kennedy—to which the company is devoting the cash outlays and production heft that would befit a major new vehicle launch.

In the process, Ford CEO Jim Hackett and his leadership team are placing a significant bet that they can lay out a robust picture of Ford now—and a persuasive vision for its future—that will both help counteract the company’s 2.4% dip in US sales so far this year and inject some life into its flaccid stock price.

“He has a kind of swagger to get down to the essence of things,” Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets, told reporters this week about Cranston, the star of Breaking Bad. “He just captures that no-baloney, real honesty that frankly we don’t hear much of any more.”

Matt Van Dyke, Ford’s director of US marketing, said that Ford is “honest about the cultural context we’re operating in. There’s all this talk, and we’ve got a 115-year heritage of doing and building and backing it up by making a car every 5.4 seconds. We’re ready to speak with an attitude of pride and confidence.”

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