At the last minute, though, the automaker decided to divert some of the money it earmarked for airing its truck ad toward a new campaign—one that’s not centered around Ford’s vehicles. Instead, the company’s new ad delivers a message it hopes encourages viewers to pull together in the fight against COVID-19.
Ford executives turned to filmmaker Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights, Patriots Day, Lone Survivor) to create a campaign of hope and encouragement. The goal? To get people to continue to be vigilant and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“The COVID pandemic has tested us all in ways we could not have imagined a year ago,” Berg said. “People are weary, beat down, and it would be easy to let our guard down now. But we have to keep fighting for each other; we’re almost there. As we enter 2021, we wanted to help inspire Americans to come together and save lives until the vaccines arrive in numbers. We need to finish strong. We got this.”
The initial 30-second long “Finish Strong” campaign, narrated by actor Bryan Cranston, will air from January 1-3, 2021 during college and NFL football games with big audiences. After that, 15- and 60-second versions, as well as the original 30-second spot, will continue to be shared on social media.
Ads for the 2021 Ford F-150 are still set to air on January 1, 2021, but around 20 of the spots Ford originally reserved for the F-150 campaign are now set to air the new Finish Strong campaign instead (or about the equivalent of half the F-150 media buy, per Ford).
Ford started its efforts to help others during the pandemic back in March when it began producing personal protection equipment. Since then, Ford has manufactured and donated 50,000 ventilators, 20 million face shields, 32,000 respirators, 1.4 million reusable isolation gowns, and 50 million face masks, with the goal of eventually making 100 million masks. This includes the recent addition of child-sized face masks, Jim Baumbick, Ford’s vice president of enterprise product line management, strategy, and planning, said.
In the past, Ford supplied iron lungs during the polio epidemic and was a leader in the Arsenal of Democracy in building aircraft and helping arm America during World War II. “We are not helpless,” Baumbick said. “There are things we can do to reduce the risk and save a bunch of lives.”
Ford spokesman Mark Truby said Berg was chosen to lead the Finish Strong campaign because he was familiar with the automaker’s efforts to help limit the spread of COVID-19. The director worked with the automaker to film the short documentary On the Line. Ford also liked that Berg is a relatively apolitical figure.
“Americans don’t want to be preached to,” Truby said, and the brand ultimately wanted to craft a positive message that appeals to the patriotic duty of working together to save lives.