Mustang Ads Feature Late Steve McQueen
Thu Oct 14,11:44 AM ET

DEARBORN, Mich. - The late Steve McQueen is making a return appearance starting next month in commercials for the 2005 Mustang. The ads draw on the actor's appearance behind the wheel of a Mustang in the 1968 action movie "Bullitt."


Marketing experts say the ads are right on target because of the mystique surrounding McQueen, who died of cancer in 1980.

The ad is an homage to the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams," in which Kevin Costner portrays a dreamer who conjures the spirits of Shoeless Joe Jackson and other baseball players when he builds a playing field on his farm.

In Ford's commercial, a farmer builds a winding racetrack, which he circles in the 2005 Mustang, due in showrooms next month. Out of the cornfield comes McQueen.

The farmer then tosses his keys to McQueen, whose likeness is created by a body double and some digital editing wizardry. The spot ends with McQueen driving off in the new Mustang.

Mustang enthusiasts have been buzzing for days on Internet chat rooms about the high-concept commercial. Ford confirmed the accuracy of the story line described on the Internet, The Detroit News said Thursday.

Marketing experts say the Ford ad is pushing the right buttons because the McQueen legend and the Mustang evoke fond memories for movie-goers and car buffs alike.

"It's a very positive association," said Wes Brown, a partner in the California consulting company NexTrend.

The Mustang commercial is part of a comprehensive marketing effort Ford is launching to generate some excitement about the blue oval brand.

The automaker is counting on a strong start for a group of new models to bolster sales and put an end to a long market share slump. The Ford brand is on track to drop to 16.6 percent of the U.S. market in 2004, its ninth consecutive year of decline. Through September, Ford's total car sales were down 13.5 percent from last year.

The brand also has increased its fourth-quarter advertising budget to $170 million, about 50 percent more than was spent during the final three months of 2003.

Using computer magic to transcend the passage of time isn't new to commercials. Ten years after his death in 1987, Fred Astaire's image was featured in a TV ad that showed him dancing with a Dirt Devil vacuum cleaner.

"If it's executed properly and well, it can be a very effective tool," Brown said.

The Mustang commercial was conceived by Detroit-based J. Walter Thompson and shot by Believe Media, an international production company whose clients have included Coca Cola Ltd., Nike and McDonald's.


(Thanks to Nikki Mascali for sending this in!)