Ford Goes for Broke in Advertising New Probe
ALAN L. ADLER
Jun. 23, 1992
DETROIT (AP) _ Normally conservative Ford Motor Co. says it's going all out in marketing its redesigned Probe, doubling its media budget and advertising on MTV to attract young adult buyers.
Ford expects to sell a record 125,000 of the sporty second-generation Probes in the 1993 model year by focusing on the car's performance and styling changes.
''I think the idea is to give this car a personality and a presence in the marketplace so it doesn't become just another trendy kind of car,'' said Ford car advertising manager Bob Gillooly on Tuesday. ''I think we all can think of plenty of those kind of cars that have come and gone.''
Ford is hoping to avoid such a fate for Probe, younger stablemate to the legendary Mustang among the company's seven nameplates.
Plans include heavy TV exposure from July through September, traditionally a slow period for automobile advertising. Advertising on MTV and sponsorship of the Arsenio Hall and David Letterman talk shows are part of Ford's plan.
''It's a young sophisticated group, and Probe is just the right kind of car for that group,'' said Ford Division advertising manager John Vanderzee.
Print ads with the catchy slogans ''The road is calling. Here's your answering machine,'' and ''It's not the road you take, it's how you take the road'' target 18-to-34-year-old men and women who account for half of Probe's sales.
In California, where competition is brutal in the small specialty car segment, Ford is making a rare buy into radio time to help saturate the Probe message. Young adults account for 5 percent to 6 percent more of the population in California than elsewhere in the country.
Ford couldn't build Probes fast enough when the car first came out. Backlogged dealer orders led to a three-month wait for the car in 1988.
But by late 1989, cars were more plentiful than buyers. Sales through June 10 this year are down 31.5 percent from last year despite a $1,500 cash rebate.
Ford hopes original Probe buyers will come back when the new car goes on sale July 9.
Ads on MTV are a departure for the No. 2 automaker, which hopes to snare the younger buyer and maybe tap into kids' influence with their parents.
''Young people are very sensitive to the newest thing on the block,'' Vanderzee said.
The price for the basic 1993 LT Probe model is $12,845 with the GT starting at $15,174, up an average of $108 from 1992 models.