Ford rouses the Griswolds for ‘Christmas Vacation’ ad promoting electric Mustang

Dive Brief:

  • Ford assembled several cast members from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” for a holiday TV ad promoting the automaker’s new electric Mustang, per a news release.
  • Stars Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo reprise their respective roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold from the 1989 sequel that many view as a classic. The “Electri-Vacation” spot references a famous scene in the movie where Clark struggles with an elaborate Christmas light set up, with Ellen now stepping into the garage to plug in and charge the family’s Mustang Mach-E, triggering the lights to finally turn on in a “hallelujah” moment lifted from the film.
  • Ford will air the 60-second creative around a “Saturday Night Live” Christmas special today, with a digital version running on YouTube. Ads built around nostalgia for old movies continue to gain traction as consumers seek comfort and entertainment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dive Insight:

Marketers deploying pop culture references isn’t a new concept, but 2020 has yielded a variety of ads that lean hard into the nostalgia factor, with several brands reworking famous moments from old classics. Ford is attempting to bring some of that warmth and familiarity to the holidays as it puts a more concentrated push behind its new Mustang Mach-E, an important offering in the legacy automaker’s pivot to focusing more on electric products.

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“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” has endured as a seasonal classic, and getting Chase and D’Angelo to reprise their roles — while also recreating a famous scene from the movie — could forge an emotional connection with viewers. It’s a strategy that’s recently paid off for others in the automotive category.

Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand ran an ad around the Super Bowl in February for which Bill Murray stepped back into the shoes of Phil Connors from 1993’s “Groundhog Day,” another nostalgic favorite among movie watchers. The spot was one of the best-received of the game, handily topping USA Today’s closely watched Super Bowl Ad Meter.

Even as COVID-19 has posed intense production challenges since March, the nostalgic movie trend has continued in ads. In October, Advance Auto Parts brought Bruce Willis back as John McClane from the “Die Hard” franchise in a campaign promoting the automotive after parts retailer’s addition of the DieHard line of car batteries to its product lineup.

Consumers could potentially be more receptive to pop culture-oriented marketing as they look to reflect on better times and seek out outlets for entertainment while stuck at home. For Ford, the “Christmas Vacation” play aims to draw interest to a vehicle that is crucial to the automaker’s broader push into electric offerings, a strategy it is enacting to keep pace with disruptive rivals like Tesla. Ford two years ago announced it was going “all-in” on electric vehicles, with plans to invest $11.5 billion to electrify its fleet of cars.

Characters in the Mustang Mach-E ad poke fun at the iconic muscle car brand’s leap into the comparatively quiet electric space. At one point, an older family member notes that he used to own a Mustang “back when cars made sounds.”

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