Note: Subtitles do not appear in in-market version.
One of China’s biggest celebrities, Ottawa-born Mark Rowswell, will star in Ford’s latest Chinese-language campaign for its Edge, Fusion and Flex automobiles.
Rowswell, who goes by the name Dashan in China, rose to fame in the late 1980s as a comedian and television presenter. He is often referred to as the most famous foreigner in China, where he has millions of fans, despite his relative obscurity in the West. He was recently made the cultural attaché to the Canadian Olympic team, with whom he will appear at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics.
Dashan’s television ad shows him meeting a wizened “sifu,” or master, who transports him to a fantastical road where he drives the three featured vehicles. There are two versions of the ad, one for each of China’s two main dialects–Mandarin and Cantonese. Both will debut on July 24 on Mandarin and Cantonese television stations in Toronto and Vancouver. Print ads featuring Dashan will also run in major Chinese newspapers in those cities starting next week, and will continue throughout the Olympic season.
“We have an objective to be the top domestic manufacturer in sales to Asian Canadians,” said Barb Tilly, communications manager at Ford Canada. “The two communities we look to specifically are the Chinese and South Asian communities. To look at the 2006 census data, both of those populations are growing extremely fast, with both at over 1.2 million [people in Canada]. Some of our mainstream advertising doesn’t hit those markets, so [these ads] allow us to talk to them.”
Although the ads are part of the national Powered By You campaign developed by Ford’s agency of record, Young & Rubicam, this execution was designed by Kang & Lee Advertising in New York, the Y&R division that has handled Ford’s Chinese-language advertising in Canada since early 2007. Ad Age rated the 65-person agency the number one U.S. Asian multicultural agency in 2008.
Saul Gitlin, executive vice-president, strategic services at Kang & Lee, said the ads feature vehicle models that research revealed to be the most relevant to the Chinese-Canadian market. It’s not just about marketing cars that have been bought by Chinese Canadians, he said, but understanding what “Ford’s brand positioning is in the market, and how we can constantly create excitement…In addition to saying these are the right types of vehicles in terms of size and performance, there’s a lot of excitement that these vehicles convey.”