Ford, in new ad campaign, urges Americans to #FinishStrong during critical pandemic period

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News
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The voice of actor Bryan Cranston intones over shots of frontline health-care workers, a COVID-19 survivor and essential workers wearing face masks: "We are so close. Soon we will be what were — touching, loving, living. Let's finish strong."

That's the message behind a forthcoming advertising campaign Ford Motor Co. is debuting Friday during several college football bowl games that are sure to draw millions of viewers. The 30-second video, which will run across various television spots through at least Jan. 3, aims to persuade Americans that it's their patriotic duty to participate in COVID-19 mitigation efforts as newly released vaccines bring hope for an end to a pandemic that to date has killed more than 335,000 people in the U.S.

"While many are weary from the challenges 2020 has thrown at us, now is the time for us to pull together, protect each other and finish strong until COVID-19 vaccines arrive more broadly," Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford's Americas and International Markets Group, said in a statement. "Lives are on the line."

The Finish Strong campaign is just the latest prong in the Dearborn automaker's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly after the first cases of the deadly virus were confirmed in the U.S. in March, Ford quickly shifted gears and began producing much-needed medical and protective equipment for COVID-19 patients, frontline workers, underserved communities and others across the country.

To date, the Blue Oval has manufactured 55 million face masks and expects to have made enough to donate 100 million masks by mid-2021. Details of the mask donation program are available at FordFund.org.

The company — with the help of United Auto Workers members and in some cases manufacturing partners — has also made 20 million face shields, 50,000 ventilators for the federal stockpile, more than 32,000 powered air-purifying respirators and 1.4 million washable isolation gowns.

A shot from Ford new's #FinishStrong ad, directed by Peter Berg and debuting Jan. 1.

The idea for #FinishStrong developed as the company learned from health care workers and experts about the critical period the U.S. is in, as cases and deaths continue to strain hospitals, even as initial rounds of vaccinations have begun. 

"The goal was, how could we help rally around this idea that we're almost there?" said Mark Truby, Ford's chief communications officer. "Vaccines are around the corner, but we know from health care experts that as many as 50,000 more American lives could be saved between now and when we have mass adoption of vaccines ... if we were to follow proper COVID protocols as a society."

Rather than preaching to people about mask-wearing, which has become a hyper-partisan issue, Ford and its advertising partners wanted to come up with a unifying message that appeals to viewers' sense of patriotism and morality. They selected filmmaker Peter Berg, whose credits include the popular "Friday Night Lights" television show, to direct the commercial.

A shot from the new #FinishStrong ad that Ford will debut during college football bowl games on New Year's Day.

The automaker had already bought up ad spots for highly watched football games over the first three days of the new year, and opted to divert to the Finish Strong campaign about half the time it would have devoted to a new ad for the 2021 F-150 pickup truck that it's in the midst of introducin. 

The commercial will debut Jan. 1 during the Citrus Bowl on ABC and the Peach, Rose and Sugar bowls on ESPN. It will also run during bowl games on Jan. 2 and during Fox NFL games Jan. 3, for a total of about 20 time slots dedicated to the commercial. Ford has also enlisted its various partners to participate in a social media campaign around the #FinishStrong mantra, and is sharing the message across its workforce as well.

"The goal is to try to help, as we enter into the new year, shift the sentiment," said Truby. "Rather than looking at things as a political issue or a partisan issue, how do we come together to try to help save lives and finish these next few months that are going to be so critical, in a spirit of protecting each other?"

jgrzelewski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JGrzelewski

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