Timed to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2023, Ford released a mock commercial which features a car they’re calling the Ford Explorer Men’s Only Edition. The 45-second-long “commercial” features a voiceover by Bryan Cranston. He begins the voiceover in earnest but seems to realize halfway that the fictional automobile is a purposeful prank:
Bryan Cranston: “For the first time ever, (Ford) has completely reimagined the automobile. Introducing the Men’s Only Ford Explorer, with no windshield wipers, no heater. No turn signals? Wait, no rearview mirror? No GPS, are you kidding? Ah, it’s missing all the parts created by women. Wow. Whose great idea was that?”
Cranston’s voiceover then transitions to a more serious tone: “This Women’s History Month, Ford salutes the visionary automotive work by women — past, present, and future.”
Tagline: Learn more at Ford.com/ExplorerMensOnlyEdition
The supporting microsite for the Explorer Men’s Only Edition features the stories of the women who Ford claims were instrumental in developing windshield wipers, car heaters, brake and turn signals, rearview mirrors, and GPS.
For instance, according to Ford, Dorothy Levitt was the creator of the rearview mirror: “Although she was a successful auto engineer and businesswoman by day, Dorothy had her sights on something more fast-paced. She became the first female British race car driver and quickly became known as ‘The Scorcher.’ One day when she was flying down the track, a lightbulb went off. She held up a small hand mirror and was able to see the guys as she left them in her dust. And that’s when the rearview mirror and her racing career took off.”
Earned Media for the ‘Ford Explorer Men’s Only Edition’ Faux Commercial
The cheeky Ford Explorer Men’s Only Edition campaign may have used poetic license, according to critics. However, the faux ad was successful at yielding earned media anyway.
The story was picked up by local news stations across the United States. For instance, Fox 10 in Phoenix played the video in a news segment, echoing Ford’s talking points, such as: “Women have been a significant part of the auto industry since World War II when 180,000 women headed to work on Detroit assembly lines.”
The campaign also brings attention to the issue of female representation in the present. “The auto industry remains male-dominated,” according to a 2020 report by the U.S. International Trade Commission. “In 2019, 23.6 percent of workers employed by automotive manufacturers were women, slightly below the average share for the last two decades” despite that “62 percent of all new cars sold in the U.S. were purchased by women, according to Cars.com.”
The Explorer Men’s Only Edition mock ad is part of Ford’s Built Ford Proud campaign to court underrepresented demographics, including women and minorities, featuring partnerships with:
- Sydney Sweeney, ‘Euphoria’ star and creator of the TikTok channel @Syd’s_Garage
- Dee Bryant, a professional stunt driver and co-founder of the Association of Women Drivers
Newsjacking is a marketing strategy which involves piggybacking on a news story to bring attention to a brand. Research finds that newsjacking elicits “more favorable consumer responses” — including more likes, shares, and other engagement — than content using a “non-topical tagline.” Newsjacking can be especially effective when both predictable and attached to a cause such as International Women’s Day which has been celebrated around the world since 1909.
Newsjacking for Women’s History Month
Ford is not the first carmaker to use feminist cause marketing to sell cars. Audi debuted their #DriveProgress cause marketing campaign for gender equality at the 2017 Super Bowl. Volkswagen promoted a similar campaign this year with a video for Women’s History Month called “Meet the Women Behind Our Cars.”