Lincoln-Mercury Traveling New Road


The new chief of Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury division said Wednesday that its move to Irvine is but one step in a campaign to revitalize the brand so that it attracts younger buyers.

Speaking before the Los Angeles Ad Club one day after the Irvine headquarters opened, Lincoln-Mercury President Mark Hutchins, a former head of Ford’s Canadian operations, said the division’s approach to marketing and advertising cars is being revamped.

Lincoln-Mercury is becoming more sophisticated in how it uses advertising, he said. Where it used to blanket network TV and national magazines with ads, it’s now using media to more closely target consumers.

With the Mercury Cougar, a vehicle aimed at younger buyers, Lincoln-Mercury has placed ads for the first time on MTV and in Rolling Stone, Details and Swing. It is also aggressively using the Internet to run contests and promotions.


“Lincoln-Mercury used to be all about mass marketing. In fact, as recently as three years ago, 95% of our national advertising was in network TV and national magazines,” Hutchins said. “Today we’re about slicing and dicing.”

To reach parents with young children, Lincoln-Mercury hooked up with the popular cartoon show “Rugrats.” Auto pitches appear on “Rugrats” videos, and the division has a tie-in with an upcoming children’s movie based on the show.

Hutchins said that as a result of efforts begun two years ago, Lincoln-Mercury is making headway with younger buyers. Purchasers of the Lincoln Navigator, a luxury sport-utility vehicle, are, on average, 19 years younger than the typical Lincoln buyer, he said. Lincoln-Mercury buyers tend to be in their mid-50s.

Though it has been on the market for only a month or so, the redesigned Cougar, the first Mercury in years that hasn’t been a clone of a Ford model, is also attracting younger purchasers, Hutchins said. Buyers have been between 30 and 40, and at least half are women, he said.


“We’re meeting our target,” he said. “But in the beginning, you always do. We’ll know more as time goes on.”

Hutchins said Mercury’s quirky year-old “Imagine TV” ad campaign is helping to boost the nameplate’s image. The television ads resemble a sitcom interrupted by a pitch for Mercury. Some auto analysts have questioned the effectiveness of the ads, given the softness of Mercury’s sales.

Hutchins said the ads, created by agency Young & Rubicam, have succeeded in grabbing viewers’ attention--an accomplishment, he said, given that young adults didn’t think of Mercury when shopping for a car.

“Our advertising before was nowhere,” he said. “Our first step is to get on shopping lists.”


Hutchins said that research shows that young adults understand the ads, which spoof TV and advertising.

He said the ads will evolve to provide details about specific models and features.

Separately, Hutchins said that none of the 5,000 buyouts of white-collar workers announced by Ford on Wednesday involved employees of the Lincoln-Mercury division. He said that as a result of the division’s move to Southern California, Lincoln-Mercury will be expanding, not cutting back.