Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company have not only revolutionized the automotive industry but also helped shape the American economy over the last 120 years. Ford is one of the largest manufacturers of vehicles in the world, and its F-Series truck has been one of the best-selling trucks in the United States for decades.
As a giant of the automotive industry, Ford has adapted its marketing and image over the years to better align itself with the changing views of its customer base as well as global environmental issues. The company has focused its consumer-facing strategy on incorporating long-standing traditions, history, and, of course, the lineup of cars and trucks that it produces.
Many of Ford's commercials have made a lasting impression on the minds of consumers. Chances are, if you hear one of their commercial jingles, you'll instantly think of a Ford vehicle. These commercials have effectively achieved their goal by being memorable and catchy, successfully promoting Ford's products.
Watching them again may even stir up some nostalgia, a testament to their enduring impact and the emotional connection they've established with audiences over the years. Here are some of the most memorable Ford commercials of all time and why they've endured throughout the years.
The Ford Pinto, a car that has become notorious in automotive history, was initially introduced in the 1970s to compete with the rising tide of compact imports in the United States. Its launch was marked by a memorable commercial featuring a lively, spotted horse — a real Pinto — playfully interacting with the 1970 Pinto car. The narrator, with a distinctive transatlantic accent, declared the Pinto as "packing more fun than any little import," branding it as "the little carefree car."
However, the charming marketing of the Ford Pinto clashes with its eventual legacy as a rolling death trap. The car was infamously rushed into production, leading to a critical design flaw: a rear gas tank that was dangerously susceptible to exploding during rear-end collisions. This flaw resulted in numerous recalls, legal battles, and a significant blow to Ford's reputation. The Pinto's safety issues inadvertently led to an increase in imported cars in the U.S. market and the Pinto being remembered as one of the most infamous cars ever produced.
The Ford Pinto commercials remain memorable for the vast disparity between the effort and resources poured into its marketing and the car's actual quality and safety. The advertisements even bragged about lower maintenance costs and affordability. However, beneath the surface, the Pinto was fundamentally flawed, and a massive car scandal rocked the industry. Today, the Ford Pinto is often referred to in discussions of marketing and ethics as a cautionary tale of the consequences when corporate profit is prioritized over consumer safety.
Ford embodies the '90s
If you fondly remember "Ren and Stimpy" cartoons, Super Soaker battles, and "Saved by the Bell," chances are, you're a '90s kid. This decade was marked by a distinctive aesthetic characterized by a transition from an analog to a digital world. It was a time of experimentation with flashy, gaudy, and high-energy graphics as the world looked toward a technology-filled future.
Among the standout commercials of this era was Ford's "On Other Planets" campaign. This campaign perfectly captured the '90s spirit by exploring futuristic "What if?" scenarios. What if everyone could slam dunk? What if you could drive on the moon? What if the future is so amazing that everyone gets a free Ford Mustang?
This Ford commercial is memorable for its encapsulation of the nineties' optimistic view of the future. It crafted a vibrant, colorful narrative that positioned Ford as a forward-thinking, cutting-edge brand. Rather than focusing on a specific model, the campaign cleverly elevated Ford's overall brand image. This strategy resonated deeply with the '90s ethos of a rapidly evolving, technology-driven future, securing its place as an iconic piece of advertising from the decade.
Ford Mustang: Steve McQueen
This advertisement is a clever combination of cultural references, all coming together to make a fantastic commercial. It starts with the whisper, "If you build it, they will come," the iconic line from the film "Field of Dreams." The farmer cuts a swathe through his field to reveal a newly paved race track. He goes to the garage and dramatically unveils a gorgeous Ford Mustang, and then out from the field comes Steve McQueen.
The commercial is skillfully executed. It evokes nostalgia from the classic Kevin Costner film and brings back the legendary Steve McQueen, who not only played starring roles in classic car movies like "Le Mans" but was also an accomplished driver.
With such cinematic production quality and a clear-cut story, the commercial feels more like a short film than an advertisement. The Ford Mustang was the perfect choice to display American engineering and to highlight the working American within the rustic setting of a cornfield.
Ford Escape Hybrid: Kermit the Frog
When looking for a green mascot, there's nobody bigger than Kermit the Frog. During the 2006 Super Bowl, Kermit the Frog debuted in his own Ford commercial, singing: "It's not easy being green."
In it, the loveable Muppet is seen doing all kinds of extreme sports like cycling, kayaking, and mountain climbing. At the top of the mountain, the then-new Ford Escape Hybrid is revealed, leading to a playful twist on his classic song as Kermit discovers that being green can indeed be easy.
This commercial is great for several reasons. The use of Kermit's well-known song creates an immediate connection with the audience, tapping into the nostalgia and affection associated with the Muppet character. It's fun to see Kermit outside actually riding a bike and kayaking with some impressive puppetry skills Muppet Studios is known for. The environmental message and Ford Escape Hybrid fit together seamlessly.
This advertisement is an example of how a Super Bowl commercial can be funny, interesting, and quite effective as a marketing tool. It has Kermit's whimsical charm as well as an environmentally friendly message shown with the outdoors and rugged terrain. This all generates buzz for the selling points of the Ford Escape Hybrid to show that it's fun, rugged, and, most importantly, green.
Ford Explorer: Kevin Hart
In a brilliantly executed commercial, Kevin Hart brings his unique brand of humor to the forefront while showcasing the 2011 Ford Explorer. The setting is a wedding, where Hart makes a dramatic entrance, driving the Explorer right up to the stage. He interrupts the wedding toast with Kanye's "Imma Let You Finish" moment and then proceeds to take over an entire wedding party with his antics.
To get to the wedding, Hart has to navigate offroad through muddy terrain; the Explorer is packed to the brim with wedding presents. This showcases all of the Explorer's offroad functions, narrated with Hart's dynamic style. Despite being the worst possible wedding guest, Hart does bring a brand-new car to the newlyweds, carrying the scene with high energy and goofy jokes.
The commercial is a perfect blend of humor and product showcase. Kevin Hart's comic stylings fit perfectly with the hype that Ford was aiming for in this commercial. A wedding is a time for celebration, and both Hart and the Explorer take the spotlight and never let it go. It's not just about selling a car; it's about creating a memorable moment, and in this commercial, Kevin Hart and the Ford Explorer do just that. It's a standout example of how a car ad can be genuinely entertaining and leave a lasting impression.
Crazy 'Bout a Ford Truck by Alan Jackson
The "Crazy 'Bout a Ford Truck" commercial, featuring the iconic country singer Alan Jackson, is one of the catchiest and most enduring commercials Ford has ever produced. Created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ford F-150, this commercial was intended as an homage to the truck's legacy.
The commercial features Jackson's country music stylings as he sings about buying a Ford truck or two. The video is interspersed with shots of the F-150 driving through country roads and scenic American landscapes. It even includes Jackson waterskiing in a pair of jeans and concludes with him standing beside Ford's 50th-anniversary sign and a Ford truck, with a fireworks display in the background.
There's nothing quite as honky tonk as this commercial. It's a classic picture of Americana and tradition, demonstrating why Ford has been so popular with the "average Joe" in the United States and why it's one of the most common household vehicles.
The commercial does more heavy lifting than simple advertising. It celebrates its American roots with catchy tunes and a simple message, honoring American heritage and hard work.
Built Ford Proud Campaign
In the "Built Ford Proud" commercial campaign, Ford takes an unconventional approach by placing their vehicles in a supporting role. Instead of highlighting the durability and performance of its cars and trucks, Ford chose to highlight the most important thing in the vehicle: the driver.
The "Built Ford Proud" campaign switches gears and focuses on the drivers and fans of the Ford brand. This series of commercials features famous figures known for driving Ford vehicles, such as actress Sydney Sweeney, professional surfer Kai Lenny, and stunt driver Dee Bryant.
Each of these individuals stars in their dedicated commercial, which not only highlights their personal stories and connections with Ford but also illustrates how they incorporate Ford vehicles into their daily lives. The ads are a nice image boost for Ford that also emphasizes the history of the brand and its forward momentum.
Moving away from the traditional cowboys in jeans imagery, Ford instead chose to show the inclusivity of the brand by focusing on famous Ford fans who aren't typically associated with the brand's image. It's a fresh strategy that celebrates the company's diverse customer base while telling stories about the drivers' unique relationships with their Ford vehicles.
Ford Fiesta Ice Ice Baby
It doesn't matter if you're a fan of Vanilla Ice or not, Ford Fiesta's "Ice, Ice Baby" is one slickest Ford commercials out there.
If you've ever lived in a cold climate where it snows, you know the pain of having to defrost your windshield before driving in the winter. The commercial cleverly illustrates this struggle, showing two individuals cruising down the road in a Ford Fiesta with gloriously ice-free windows. The Fiesta passengers pass others along the way, attempting to de-ice their windshields in ever more absurd ways. It starts with a simple ice scraper at the beginning and quickly escalates to a woman with a pick axe chipping away and, finally, a flamethrower by the end.
The commercial culminates by highlighting the Fiesta's one-touch de-icing feature. With a simple button press, the windshield clears, thanks to its heating elements, appearing almost magical. This commercial is both memorable and effective because it focuses on a single and very relatable pain point. It cleverly concludes with a presentation of the Fiesta's features, where only the "Quickclear Heated Windscreen" is emphasized. This implies that all of the features are useful and convenient, leaving a lasting impact in less than a minute.
'78 Ford Pickup Freefall Test
Since their debut in the automotive market, Ford pickup trucks have consistently held a prominent position in the United States. With a reputation for being tough that's not solely a result of clever marketing, these trucks are genuinely built to withstand challenging conditions.
Back in 1978, Ford wanted to make a strong statement about its trucks' durability. To make the point, the company conducted a practical test by hoisting a '78 Ford truck about 10 feet in the air with a crane and then letting it drop. In slow motion, you can see the shocks of the truck working as they take the brunt of the impact from the fall. The very next scene shows the truck ramping up a hill with no problems at all.
Practical demonstrations like this can seem like a gimmick, but they're a great way to showcase a truck's durability if they can handle it. As you can see from the commercial, the '78 Ford was able to keep on trucking.
Ford Ranger Unlimited
Another memorable example of a durability test in Ford commercials is the Ranger Unlimited campaign. It's not just one commercial but a series of commercials strung together to create an impressive narrative. The idea behind the Ranger Unlimited campaign revolves around subjecting a single Ford Ranger to 16 different test drivers. Each of the 16 gets a set time with the same car before it's driven down to the next driver.
This commercial series is a great marketing tool that showcases a single Ford Ranger. It illustrates how individuals from diverse backgrounds can use and benefit from the Ford Ranger's versatility. It's also a marketing gimmick but an effective one. This is especially true when you consider it's the same Ford Ranger used throughout the entire series and one that essentially drives all the way around Australia. This accomplishment is impressive for any vehicle and firmly establishes this campaign as one of Ford's most unforgettable commercials to date.