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Ford Deal Drives ‘Wives’ Storyline

Jun 1, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Big marketers are enlisting to be part of Lifetime’s “Army Wives,” including Ford Motor Co., which is getting a special plotline that promotes the automaker’s support of the effort to fight breast cancer.
When the second season of “Army Wives” starts June 8, Procter & Gamble will sponsor the premiere episode with limited commercial interruptions, as it did last year before the series emerged as a hit.
Ford’s storyline starts in the season’s sixth episode, airing July 13. In that show, Betty, who owns the bar that exploded at the end of season one, discovers she has breast cancer and decides she needs to change her life.
She buys a car—and not just any car, but a 2009 black “Warriors in Pink” edition Mustang with pink racing stripes and a glass roof, designed to raise money for breast cancer programs—and takes off on a cross-country drive. The storyline continues as she sends postcards to the army wives on the base.
In October, as part of Lifetime’s “Dream Fulfillment” program, an identical Mustang will be given to a real army wife whose life has been affected by breast cancer.
Both P&G and Ford are following the trend of advertisers trying to augment their commercials by becoming a prominent part of a program.
Ford bought ad time on “Army Wives” during last year’s upfront before the integrated marketing plan came together. Some of the brand spots Ford bought will be converted into messages that push the importance of early cancer detection, according to Connie Fontaine, experiential marketing manager at the automaker.
“What we’re doing is better leveraging media dollars,” Ms. Fontaine said.
Ford had already picked “Army Wives” as a show that fit its brand. On top of that comes the custom-created storyline and a promotional partnership with Lifetime.
“So it’s promotional dollars, media dollars, vehicle dollars all working hard together to make it a bigger, better package,” Ms. Fontaine said.
Ford believes continuing its cause marketing is important, even though it’s a very tough time for Detroit and domestic automakers are trimming their media budgets.
“There are a lot of media dollars that are spent at Ford Motor Co. selling cars. These dollars are spent on trying to impact and save lives. And at the same time we are not shy about making sure people know that Ford is behind this initiative,” Ms. Fontaine said. “Of course you hope when you see these vehicles integrated into the show, or how excited people get when they win one, that you’re more likely to consider a Ford product.”
Ford has previously integrated its breast cancer campaign into “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC and “Deal or No Deal” on NBC.
It also will be selling “Army Wives”-inspired clothing as part of its “Warriors in Pink” program. Some of the show’s actresses will be wearing the garments on the show. Last year, viewers called in looking for the “Warriors in Pink” scrubs worn by “Grey’s Anatomy” characters, Ms. Fontaine said. The apparel sale raised $1 million for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
Lifetime also has had a long-running breast cancer awareness campaign and has begun getting advertisers involved in its public-service efforts.
Earlier this year, insurer Nationwide signed up for Lifetime’s Every Woman Counts get-out-the-vote campaign.
“This was really a natural for Ford and Lifetime to be together on this one,” said Bob Bibb, co-chief marketing officer of Lifetime. “This is not just a one-off. This is a six-month relationship of the show. We hope that Ford will be an integral part of the production and the promotion of ‘Army Wives’ for a long time.”
Ford provided a number of the show’s stars with cars to use during shooting in South Carolina. Other Ford vehicles were used in front of and behind the camera.
When Lifetime gives away the Mustang at the end of the season, the event will mark one of the first appearances of its new airplane symbol, dubbed the Flying Tigress. A 100-foot replica of the jet will show up at the winner’s home with actors from the show to present her with her prize.
“When that person comes out the front door and sees the Flying Tigress, he or she knows that something big is going to happen to their lives,” Mr. Bibb said. “It’s almost like Santa Claus’ sled arriving in the front yard.”
Several of the actors from the show are appearing in Ford’s print, TV and digital efforts promoting the campaign.
“Because it’s grounded in the idea of a good cause, we didn’t have any problems securing talent’s involvement,” said Lew Goldstein, Mr. Bibb’s partner in crime.
Lifetime also will be pulling out all the stops to make sure viewers are aware the series is back.
“The show has obviously been out there, people have heard of it, but it’s been off our air in original episodes for a while, so we really want to get the word out,” Mr. Goldstein said.
On the Saturday before the season-two premiere, Lifetime will run a marathon of last year’s “Army Wives” episodes. Both Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network this week will be airing movies starring actresses from the show.
The network is running a promotional campaign using national cable, spot TV, local cable, network and spot radio, print and outdoor in 10 major markets.
Lifetime will be holding viewing parties with real-life military families in markets nationwide. The network also is distributing postcards to send messages of support to army wives. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama will be taping messages for military families that will appear as interstitials on-air and online.
Lifetime also will be using “Army Wives” to draw viewers to its Web site, MyLifetime.com.
The site will make all of last season’s episodes available from June 1 to June 14, plus a video recapping the season. Season-two episodes will be available for streaming the day after they air on Lifetime. Video also is being distributed through Yahoo, iTunes and YouTube.
Each character from the show will have a specially designed Web page with character descriptions, pictures, trivia questions and a video clip.
The site also is adding community elements, with special features for real army wives. In addition, visitors to the site will be able to enter a contest to win a new Ford.

30 Comments

  1. Army wifes is my favorite show. Even though my husband is a disable Marine that was in Vietnam. We both watch the show every Sunday nite. I hope they never cancel it. Claudia Joy is my favorite actress.
    On of my questions is, how do I purchase the apparel supporting breast cancer?
    Does the apparel come in only army or other branches of service?
    And last but not least we just purchased a 2008 Ford Edge and I love Fords!

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