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Luxury uncovered" is the tagline of Lincoln's new ad campaign that aims to parlay the decent early sales of the MKZ into greater awareness of Ford's struggling luxury brand.
The MKZ is now Lincoln's best-known model, said Andrew Frick, Lincoln group marketing manager.
"Leading with the Lincoln brand as a whole right now wouldn't get us as far as leading with key products," Frick said. "When we lead with nameplates (models) we have better recognition."
The ads also have prospective buyers comparing MKZ and a Lexus ES and emphasize that an MKZ hybrid costs no more than a gas-engine powertrain.
Though MKZ sales were up 12% in September from a year earlier — before the current redesigned model was available — Lincoln's sales for the first nine months of 2013 are down 6%.
The new print, TV and social media campaign begins today and will run through the fourth quarter. Lincoln officials would not say how much they are spending.
Marketing executives are hoping social media users will glom onto the #luxuryuncovered hashtag and use it to talk about the brand. Up to 80% of shoppers research new cars online, said David Rivers, Lincoln marketing communications manager.
Using hashtags has become a regular practice for many companies, said Jon Pearce, chief creative officer of the Hudson Rouge ad agency, which created the latest promotions.
There are four 30-second TV spots initially, three focusing on MKZ, particularly the hybrid, and the fourth touting Lincoln's success in winning a J.D. Power award based on customer satisfaction.
The spots will air during prime-time programming such as football, "The Amazing Race" and "Dancing with the Stars."
Frick said the new campaign grew out of data on MKZ owners and their preferences. For example, the long front-to-back glass roof is chosen by 60% of those who buy or lease an MKZ.
The popularity of the MKZ hybrid prompted Ford to increase its share of production from 20% to 40% of the mix for the 2014 model arriving in dealerships now.
Lincoln advertised during the last Super Bowl, but "we have no plan to be in the Super Bowl this year," Frick said.
Rivers said Lincoln got a lot of publicity and website traffic from two Super Bowl spots, but supply and quality issues delayed the car's launch so the dealers did not have ample stocks of MKZs until the spring.
Lincoln's next completely new model is the MKC compact crossover, but its launch has been delayed. None of the officials available said when the MKC might go on sale.