I’m not sure which message I am supposed to take from the Ford Motor Company “Bold Moves” advertising campaign. The ad shows a family of four and their dog on an outing for the day. They seem happy and well-adjusted. The narrator announces that the new Ford Freestyle, Crossover edition, will travel over 500 miles on a tank of gas. Nothing confusing yet; that is important news for potential automobile buyers. Then the Freestyle stops and the father gets out, hugs his kids and thanks his ex-wife for allowing him to share this time. She benevolently smiles and says, "Sure," and drives away, leaving the father behind.
Beyond the clear presentation of a divorced family, I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what Ford is trying to say. The ad ends with this statement, "Bold moves happen every day." What is the bold move? It must be the bold message Ford is sending. Listen to the response of John Felice, the general marketing manager at Ford. ''It's a true reflection of the world today,'' adding that the company was not ''making any type of social statement.'' On the contrary, Mr. Felice; Ford is making a mighty big social statement.
The first social statement made reflects the marginalizing of males! A father is dropped off at a dumpy little apartment, while his family drives away. The dog is getting better treatment, as his tail wags all the way home. Mom is in the driver’s seat, while the father is simply along for the ride. This ad says that men are marginal at best, troublesome at worst, but necessary donors for the human race. Perhaps this arrangement is the father’s idea. If so, it represents self-centered masculinity at its worst.
My next problem with the ad is the glamorization of a lie! The myth of the good divorce is not new to Hollywood; but, it is pretty much ignored as a joke by anyone who has ever had to file for one. The only truly realistic part of the commercial is the uncertain look on the children's faces, as their father goes to his home alone. Once again, the myth of the well-adjusted child is portrayed to the hilt. The message is clear: kids are as durable as a Ford and they will make it through this “freestyle" and this "crossover."
In a really strained rationale, John Felice then defends Ford's "better ad idea," by suggesting that it is a "celebration of family" and a tribute to "the versatility of life itself, as well as the versatility of the Freestyle." Mr. Felice, you cannot be serious in suggesting that an answer to the divorce issue is a brand new Ford Freestyle. If you want to celebrate the family, then celebrate the couple who went to the brink of divorce and turned back--the couple who found help and strength to work through their issues and provide a better life for their family, not just a better vehicle in which to pass through life.
Divorce is a painful reality all across this nation. Don't insult the tragedy of millions of Americans, by suggesting that a new Ford is a way to make the best out of a bad situation. Let me suggest that Ford should stick to engineering engines, drive trains, and body styles and resign as engineers of social change.