Popular truck ad campaigns provide tips for any business

One goes straight for your heart, the other goes for belly laughs – but both are memorable, popular campaigns to draw attention, and buyers, to a couple of trucks.

And while I don’t think that buying a work vehicle based solely on a clever ad is a secret to success, the respective methods of marketing madness offer lessons any business can benefit from.

Of course, I’m talking about contrasting videos from Chrysler Group: Ram Truck’s somber, visually stunning “Farmer” commercial and the very recent viral video series featuring fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy as a Dodge Durango pitchman.

[youtube SC_Up3zrKjE nolink]

“Farmer” launched in February during the Super Bowl, and delivered a bumper crop of brand interest in the brand-loyal pick-up market. And just this week Ram awarded $1 million to FFA (formerly the Future Farmers of America), the culmination of “Year of the Farmer,” an initiative to bring national attention to the significance of the American farmer. (That story and the video are here.)

If blue jackets with the giant FFA patch on the back were common in your high school hallway, or if the 4-H auction barn is the place to be during your county fair, or if you baled hay in the summer to make some date money and get ready for football, then the Ram Truck spot will absolutely hit home.

If, however, your wife can’t even trust you to water the vegetable patch when you’re supposed to, or if your brother would prefer you keep a safe distance from the livestock, then Ron Burgundy is probably your kind of guy.

Burgundy is the Will Ferrell character who’s completely clueless, yet blissfully full of himself. His signature line is, “I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal.”

Ferrell, in a tie-in to the soon-to-be-released Anchorman sequel, puts his quirky character on the showroom floor and tries to demonstrate the advantages of the Durango – about which he knows nothing, but that doesn’t deter him.

Among the versions getting a lot of play on television lately, he taunts a horse for having, yes, a single horsepower compared to the mighty Durango’s 360 hp. Apparently, Ferrell made some 70 videos that will roll out on tv and the Web in coming months. Adweek has the inside story, and a sampling of additional videos, here.

The sales managers are still out on whether Burgundy’s buffoonish popularity will move vehicles from real showrooms, but the campaign is a great example of making do with less. Ferrell essentially worked for free, part of a cross-promotion deal with Paramount, the studio making the movie.

Notably, while critics have suggested the Burgundy ads don’t promote the SUV as much as they promote Anchorman 2, the critically praised and sales-boosting “Farmer” video hardly shows trucks at all.

The lesson for any business is this: Chrysler, the smallest Detroit car company, has a the smallest ad budget, about 40 percent less than GM’s (the second largest advertiser in the U.S.) and twenty percent less than Ford’s.

Of course you must spend your ad dollars wisely. “Farmer” is the more traditional route, symbolically associating your company with the values you and your customers hold dear.

Indeed, your best customers are your best advertisement – any recommendations, from word of mouth to formal marketing testimonials, work – but it all starts with a job well done, and available for all to see.

And, as Ron Burgundy shows in his backwards way, there are plenty of creative, cooperative opportunities to be explored. Promotional partners can be found in unusual places. The business buzz word for such an arrangement is “synergy,” but I’d hate to come across as that kind of a big deal myself.