Matthew McConaughey is the new pitchman for Ford’s Lincoln brand.
The company made the announcement Thursday and released a rather moody video in which the Oscar-winning star of “Dallas Buyers Club” talks about why he loves to drive and detests being a passenger, why he thinks there’s good chemistry between himself and Lincoln, why he likes the MKC SUV (it has a “good stance”), why he looks forward to driving for two days from Hollywood to Austin, TX, and about how Lincoln is a “classic, iconic American brand” that’s “making a transformation into the luxury market…”
Wait! Isn’t Lincoln already a luxury brand?
Well, that’s kind of the issue. And the reason why the brand has gone with McConaughey — who may have played a lawyer doing business out of the back of his old-school Lincoln, but who looks far more spiritually connected to something like a Ford F-150 pickup truck — to boost the division’s fortunes.
Because Lincoln has lost its way. After the financial crisis, when former CEO Alan Mulally was getting rid of Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo (nameplates that collectively made up Ford’s “Premier Automotive Group”) to concentrate on a “One Ford” strategy, there were doubts regarding Lincoln’s future.
I know because I expressed those doubts.
Heck, I did it twice.
I mean, three times.
Lincoln survived. But it hasn’t been setting the luxury market on fire. As Bloomberg’s Keith Naughton observed when reporting the McConaughey news:
Lincoln’s U.S. sales rose 16 per cent this year through July, compared with a year earlier when sales fell to a 32-year low. Lincoln ranks eighth among luxury brands sold in the U.S. and it’s outsold by almost two-to-one by General Motor Co.’s Cadillac luxury line. A year’s worth of Lincoln sales would not fill half a Ford factory.
So obviously Lincoln has to do something to define — or more accurately, redefine — itself in the market. McConaughey is right as far as the issues of the moment are concerned: Lincoln is “making a transformation.” But the brand has always been Ford’s core luxury offering, even when Jaguar and Land Rover were in the stable. Ford never truly stopped thinking of Lincoln that way, but the consumer did.
The esoteric quality of the McConaughey intro is unusual, however.
“The campaign isn’t screaming for attention,” he says in his mellifluous drawl, as lightly trance-inducing electronic music plays and images of twilight in Texas float across the screen. “It’s as much about the tone…the mood…the silent…moments…in between the words and in between the dialogue…”
He trails off, then resumes, declaring, “There’s an authenticity to the campaign, and to the automobile.”
The automobile. McConaughey is 44 years old but somehow he can get away with sounding like a wise man from the oily mists of Route 66, back when the authenticity of Lincolns was a given.
And then comes that genre of borderline whacky, stream-of-consciousness, back-porch philosophizing that has become a McConaughey speciality since his Oscar acceptance speech about being his own hero…but when he’s a different him…in the the future…
“What does ‘live in your moment’ mean to me? What does it mean to everybody, all right?” he asks. “It’s what everyone’s trying to do. I’m not gonna say I do it all the time, I don’t know anyone who does do it all the time.”
Those thoughts, by the way, are preceded by this shot of a steer in a pen. Make of it what you will.
Anyway, back to living in the moment. “We know what it means,” he continues. “It’s not getting to far behind, it’s not getting to far ahead. Once you’re in the MKC, it is a good example of shutting out the rest of the world.”
AdAge reports that McConaughey has a “multiyear” contract with Lincoln, so we could be in store for a lot more of this.
In a teasing YouTube video, all of 20 second, introducing himself as the new face of Lincoln, he remarks that “sometimes you’ve got to go back, to actually move forward.”
Evidently, Lincoln wants it this way. According to the brand’s media site:
In a nod to McConaughey’s storytelling talents, Lincoln and director Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive”) created a storyline for him around the MKC. In the spots, McConaughey invites viewers to experience the vehicle through unscripted moments in the commercial.
Watch the whole Lincoln media video here.
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