Oh, Lincoln. Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln. Of the eight car companies named for presidents, you're still one of the two remaining (and related to, since the other is Ford), but I'm really afraid for your future. To many of us watching, it's looks like you've just sat down to watch Our American Cousin in Ford's Theater, if you get me.
There's two big issues Lincoln has right now: a lack of compelling cars and a marketing campaign that makes you want to eat bowlfuls of hot, angry bees. Like trotting out beautiful old Lincolns at the LA Auto Show which only drove home the point about how Lincoln's lost its way, and now, this insipid "Steer the Script" ad campaign with Jimmy Fallon "curating" tweets.
I don't blame Jimmy— he loves briefcases of money just like anyone, and I bet he just bought a boat or a robot manservant or something. It's the fundamental idea. Basically, Lincoln's ad people have convinced Ford to buy a Superbowl ad or something equally big, and now realize they have no idea what to talk about. So, like anyone with soft, new-media hands, they're "crowdsourcing" the script, soliciting tweets from all us drooling simpletons on the internet, and they're making Jimmy Fallon "curate" them. Which I think means getting rid of the ones that are more than 40% profanity.
Even more insipid is that they know, deep down, they can't make this commercial about their cars about their cars, because nobody under 65 outside of someone being taken to the airport has ridden in a Lincoln in decades. And nobody really cares, because there's not much to care about. So they're requesting, via Tweets
They just want trips about driving in general, because that's as close as they can get. The truth is, you can actually take road trips in cars other than Lincolns— I know, I've tested it! It works! Not always great, but still.
There's so many annoying and cloying things about this campaign its hard to know where to start. It's bad enough to see the sad, probably planted overly-enthusiastic tweets like
#SteerTheScript One day I was driving my Lincoln MTZ in LA and saw...oh wait that wasn't me...stupid dream, nice car.— William Wakeman (@WilliamWakeman1) December 5, 2012
and this one
BEST HOST I've seen, BEST LATENITE Show, BEST CAR to drive for miles can set the tone for restful sleep with pleasant dreams & smiles!— Linda Celiano (@LynnGVC) December 5, 2012
... but even worse is thinking about what Lincoln could have been. Look at this article from 2002 about their Continental Concept— a very handsome V12, rear-drive, aluminum-skinned sedan with the iconic clapdoor design. It's handsome, pays homage to Lincoln's past design triumphs without being too derivative, and would stand out in a positive way, even today.
Granted, today they'd probably have to build it with a smaller engine, but that would be fine. It feels like what a Lincoln should be. Should have been. While Lincoln doesn't have to be about RWD cars with lots of power (although we wouldn't complain), they need to be distinct enough from the Ford's they're based on to make us care.
And it's not that any of us believe car ads need be entirely about cars. In fact, you can make great car advertisements that barely feature a car at all... if you make great cars. It's a nice statement. If you don't make any great cars yet, it's just insipid.
More frustrating is that there's parts of the MKZ that I like, and I genuinely like Solomon Song, their lead designer. I feel like his vision is strong, and if the marketing and product planning people would back off and stop pretending they're going to be Audi or BMW the marque would have a real chance.
But, that's not where we are. Instead, we have Jimmy Fallon staring at us with dead eyes, desparately trying to sound excited about picking out a bunch of misspelled Tweets to staple together into an inane commercial.
I say, let's try and send Lincoln a message. My first idea was to only send Tweets about bowel obstructions and/or dead pets, but Hardigree nixed that idea, on the flimsy reasoning it was "stupid" and "bleak." Hm. Well, his idea was better. Send in Tweets for the ad, but make your road trip blurbs all reference old Lincolns you can't buy anymore, or the new ones they're not building.
And maybe throw in one or two about bowel obstructions, if you want. No pressure.