OPINION: Newland on ... Ford Mondeo

I'm a great believer in advertising that entertains. If you're going to interrupt the tense reveal at the end of a gripping murder mystery, the least you can do is make your 30 seconds worth watching. It's only polite. And it's clear that I'm not alone in this. The backbone of our ad breaks may be poorly dubbed shampoo ads courtesy of our friends at Procter & Gamble, but they are now liberally peppered with some fun-to-watch commercial messages.

Off the top of my head right now there's an engaging 30 seconds from Diet Coke, a belly laugh-provoking execution for John Smith's and an eye-catching performance from some Lilt ladies. All of these spots are interesting enough to inspire both chat in the pub and fond associations with their respective brands.

What's interesting is that there are several car companies also investing in this territory. Frederic Bond's eerily shot piece for Peugeot manages to pack the drama of a two-hour foreign film into a 30-second spot about jealousy. BMP DDB's Volkswagen Polo commercial, which shows a tiny woman escaping a cat in a toy-sized Polo, intrigues and entertains.

And there's Ogilvy & Mather's latest effort to sell Ford's Mondeo. Over the past year I've been a vociferous critic of a lot of Ford commercials, condemning them to Turkey of the Week on more than one occasion. The Fiesta ads still rankle, but more recently it was a spot for Mondeo that offended.

Remember the one where the lights blow at a lighthouse and a troubled girlfriend manages to guide her fisherman boyfriend to safety using the car's high beams? It's schmaltztastic.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I first saw the Tom and Jerry Mondeo spot. It's the first Ford ad I've seen this year that is good enough to carry the Ford centenary celebratory logo.

It stands out (I don't think the characters have been used in advertising before, in the UK anyway). It also talks to the right age group. The execution conjures nostalgia for people aged 30-plus, reminding them of innocent childhoods spent crossed-legged and open-mouthed in front of the TV watching cartoons. It's good, clean-cut stuff. The feeling of warmth that it inspires is what the lighthouse ad was aiming for, but failed to provoke.

But there's a but. Where is the commercial leading us?

Mondeo's positioning is safety, and if you pay close attention, you will see that Jerry shelters from Tom in the safety of the Mondeo. But I think you'd be hard-pushed to find a single viewer who noticed the safety message.

And this is where all of these entertaining ads risk falling down. They are one-offs. They grab attention and inspire positive responses, but they too often neglect to build a brand.

Car advertising was for so long a creative desert and ads such as these are a welcome evolution. But the Polo, Peugeot and Mondeo spots are so busy engaging us with a story, they obscure their own brand messages.

You could interchange their endframes and they'd work as well for their rivals' brands.

It's a hard category to perform in. All consumers want safety and reliability, but there are too many car marques, plus their sub-brands, jostling for those brand positions.

But it's not impossible. Look at Honda. Each spot is entertaining in its own right, but the easily recognisable tones of Garrison Keillor build them into a campaign that marks Honda out as the car for the independently minded and discerning driver. They make it look easy.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Unlikely.

File under ... F for fun.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Sweet ad, but what does it tell me

about Mondeo?"


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