No. 976
December 12, 2018

About The Autoextremist

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it one thousand times in writing this column (for going on nineteen years now), and that is that the advertising business can be one of the most wonderfully creative yet relentlessly infuriating pursuits there is. It can be a wildly exhilarating ride one minute, and have you mining the depths of despair the next. And taking into account the particular genre of automotive advertising, which is an entirely jaundiced subset all its own, you can easily multiply the entire list of negative mitigating factors times one hundred.

What makes the automotive category in advertising so extra special, or excruciating? It’s a kaleidoscope of factors, really. First, you have relentlessly paranoid clients with varying degrees of talent, capability and understanding. Some clients assigned to the automotive discipline are experienced and even qualified with meaningful marketing and advertising experience, while others have been simply thrust into the role due to a promotion, or a “seasoning” assignment. 

As you might imagine, at its worst, this wild disparity in qualifications and capabilities can be a nightmare, with people weighing in on strategic direction and creative ideas and executions blissfully devoid of a cohesive thought or a halfway coherent rationale. I once had a client who had been freshly parachuted in from the Midwest region, and who overnight was tasked with making critical decisions on multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns, tell me - with a straight face no less - that, “I know what good advertising is, because I watch a lot of TV.” Needless to say, that agency/client relationship didn’t get off to an auspicious start.

What I am trying to convey here is that the Sturm und Drang behind the advertising you see on TV or on the Internet is considerable, and it is exceedingly difficult to get a creative idea through the gauntlet of too many cooks, misguided (and unwelcome) input that’s politically tainted within an organization, and my personal favorite – territorial agendas – and have it remain basically intact, still impactful, emotionally compelling and memorable. That’s why when we actually see an ad out there that is emotionally compelling and memorable, it is worth talking about and celebrating. 

Which brings me to recently new Ford advertising work called “We The People” that first landed in 60 sec. form on a wide range of media outlets. This high concept spot has a lot going for it. It is beautifully filmed, with authentic scenes that resonate, and the soundtrack is unobtrusive yet provides a fitting context throughout. And as a former copywriter I appreciate the artful beauty of the words, because they resonate without being preachy in any way.  At least until the end…

We the people

Are defined by the things we share

And the ones we love

Our book clubs

Our tee times

The moments… we don’t have to say a word.

We the people

Who mess with each other’s heads

And have each other’s backs

Who have songs and food and kids

Helping, hoping… and dreaming

Who never stop wondering what we’ll do, or where we’ll go next

We the people, who are better together than we are alone… are unstoppable.

Up until that point the spot is almost perfect… if it had only ended there. But then the voiceover lands this last line – at 56 sec. in – with a thud:

Welcome to the entirely new Expedition.

Had this spot been a high-concept image spot for Ford, with multiple Ford vehicles used throughout, I would have deleted the “almost” from the headline of this column, because it would have been heroic and perfect, and exactly the kind of spot that has been so badly needed from Ford for a long, long time. But no, the Expedition was used throughout, and Ford wanted to make sure we were reminded, not the least bit subtly I might add, of that fact at the end. By ending it that way, the impressive look, feel and overall tone of the spot was brought to a screeching halt. (You can watch the spot here – WG)

I get the fact that so-called “image” spots are anathema for most automotive marketers, especially with the two Detroit-based, domestic automakers left. Marketers think they’re a waste of money because they cost too much and give the product short shrift. And dealers have trouble with any spot that isn't "moving the metal," and besides, it’s extremely difficult to cut image ads down to 30 sec. in order to tout lease and financing specials, so they rarely get the green light. 

I should remind everyone that FCA doesn’t seem to have that problem, however, because CMO Olivier Francois understands the powerful potential of well-executed “image” spots better than any other automotive marketer out there, and he hits more often than he doesn't, but then again he is a rarity in the automotive marketing field.

I wasn’t privy to Ford marketers’ thinking on “We The People,” but to me it was a missed opportunity. It wouldn’t be hard at all to go shoot some new scenes using additional vehicles, and then re-cut the spot into a proper 60 sec. image spot for the Ford Motor Company.

Then I would change my assessment from “Almost Perfect” to Dead. Solid. Perfect.

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.