Nontraditional Family Drives Ford Freestyle

September 1, 2006

Tanking car company Ford is rolling out some odd new ads as part of its “Bold Moves” campaign. Here’s the spot, as described in Slate:

A family drives through some gorgeous hills and along a pretty coastline, making picturesque stops at a roadside farm stand and a beach. “The Ford Freestyle crossover,” says the voiceover. “More than 500 miles on a tank of gas.” Then the SUV pulls to a stop in front of a housing complex, where the dad gets out with his luggage. “Thanks for inviting me this weekend,” he says to the mom. He hugs his kids, they say their goodbyes (“See you next week”), and the SUV drives off–leaving Dad by his lonesome. “Bold moves. They happen every day,” concludes the announcer.

I gotta get to work, so indulge me some big ol’ blockquotes:

The ad begins with ho-hum familiarity. The stock shots of the smiling family; the artfully filmed vehicle; the announcer’s cheerful pitch about fuel efficiency. We’re waiting for the lease/buy figures to pop up on screen when … BAM! With no warning, we find ourselves in the grip of a stern domestic drama. The music goes quiet. Dad gazes wistfully at mom, thanking her for this time with his kids. Mom looks back with wet eyes, barely able to muster a reply. The camera pulls out and we see Dad standing alone, with his sad little duffel bag, in front of what one reader termed the “Recent Divorcé Condo Complex.” And we’re left wondering: Why did this SUV ad turn into Kramer vs. Kramer?

Ford’s general marketing manager claims that the ad spots are a “celebration of family” and also an ode to “the versatility of life itself, as well as the versatility of the Freestyle.” “Nontraditional families,” (i.e. families where divorce has occurred), have been thanking Ford for depicting families that are frankly, the norm these days.

Slate poses the question that the ad begs: Kids from divorced families are likely to be comforted by seeing divorced families depicted on TV. But it seems like this vignette–a wife taking her estranged husband along for a weekend with their kids–would only feed the kids’ hope for a reconciliation.

You’d better know what you’re doing here, Mom! And while we see Dad’s overnight bag, we don’t see the inevitable argument over whether he and Mom will share a motel room. (“I can’t even afford my own room with these alimony payments!”; “I told you this was about the kids, not us!”)…
More important, the spot makes no sense as an enticement to buy a Freestyle. Get this car and perhaps your tattered marriage will segue into an amicable separation?

Interesting, the bold moves companies will try when they are in a nose dive.