Lincoln Aiming Marketing at Younger Consumers

Posted on October 19, 2005 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

DETROIT – Lincoln Mercury, Ford Motor Co.’s slumping luxury brand, is kicking off an ad campaign it hopes will help convince consumers that the brand is no longer just about big SUVs and black Town Car limousines.

Starting Nov. 1, sidewalk pedestrians in New York City will be able to see ads for Lincoln's 2006 Zephyr luxury sedan flash across a row of eye-level panels mounted outside buildings. Much like a child's flipbook, images in the 15-second ads jump from one illuminated panel to another stretched over 60 feet to give the illusion of a moving image for people walking past. A similar set of flipbook-type ads started running on two New York subway lines on Oct. 15.

The ads are part of a more traditional ad campaign that includes spots on TV, print and online. The campaign promotes the Zephyr, the first of five new models that Lincoln is launching over the next 11 months in an effort to remake its image and boost declining sales. While Lincoln has long been a brand for consumers in their mid-50s, the Zephyr is aimed at consumers between the ages of 35 and 45. Other new models planned by Lincoln are also aimed at younger buyers.

For the Zephyr launch, Lincoln wanted to try something new so customers would see the carmaker in a new light, said Tom Grill, Lincoln's brand manager.

"We want to rebrand ourselves so we are not linked only to the Town Car," Grill said of the model often used in limousine service. "Not that there is anything wrong with the Town Car, but we want to move on."

The flip-book-type ads were developed by Submedia of New York. Submedia has put up similar "moving" ads in Tokyo, Shanghai and other cities, including on the PATH subway line between New Jersey and New York, but this is the first time the ads will appear in outdoor spaces in the U.S. The Lincoln street ads will run in five New York City locations through the end of the year, while its two subway ads will run for a month. The overall campaign was created by the Detroit office of WPP Group's Young & Rubicam.

Introduction of the moving ads to city streets reflects a push by marketers to grab attention by placing ads on all sorts of public spaces. Ads now appear on the conveyor belts of airport baggage claims, in bathrooms, elevators, on staircases and the floors of supermarkets.

Submedia Chief Executive Peter Corrigan said that, amid an increasing bombardment of ads, Submedia's moving ads get attention. "Our ad recall rates are off the charts. People really remember them."

Still, the challenge for Lincoln will be to convince consumers to not just remember the ad, but to dip into their pocketbooks to purchase the Zephyr, which carries sticker prices starting at $29,660. Lincoln's sales have been declining: Ford recently reported that Lincoln suffered a 27% drop in September sales compared with the same period last year.

General Motors' Cadillac division is outselling the Ford brand by nearly two cars to one. Cadillac once lagged behind Lincoln in sales, but the GM unit overhauled its brand image to make it more attractive to young people three years ago. So far this year, its sales are up 11%.

The Zephyr TV ads will appear on hit TV shows such as ABC's "Desperate Housewives," while print ads will run in magazines such as Conde Nast's Bon Appetit and Wenner Media's Men's Journal. There will also be a 70 feet-by-90 feet wraparound banner featuring the Zephyr placed on the Regent Court building in Dearborn, Mich., which serves as the marketing headquarters for Lincoln.

Grill wouldn't disclose the budget for the Zephyr campaign, but said it was significant. "We are making a serious effort to let consumers know that things have changed here and we are moving in an exciting direction," Grill said.

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