Cannes Lions

For Detroit: Creating Tomorrow Together


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For years, both Ford and the city of Detroit have faced tough questions and deep pessimism about their futures as transportation industry leaders. Ford recognized that only a bold move, backed by major investment and a big vision, would answer these questions. Ford’s Michigan Station project was, indeed, big and visionary: a $750M+ plan to resurrect the abandoned Station and change the fortunes of its struggling neighborhood. The revitalized Station would emerge as Ford’s living laboratory for mobility innovation, while revitalizing the surrounding Corktown neighborhood. To earn attention and persuade the doubters, we would need to launch the plan with an historic roll out that would convey the company’s vision and persuade the skeptics of the company’s commitment. They’ve seen plenty of auto company announcements over the years: this one needed to be different.


To announce Ford’s bold plan for Michigan Central Station and Corktown, we built an immersive, interactive, multi-day celebration for community members, decision-makers, press and Ford employees. To generate anticipation for the week leading up to the launch, we projected aspirational quotes-- from famous Detroiters-- on the station facade. The local community was invited to the launch weekend-- and the opportunity to go inside the Station, which had been closed to the public for decades. Inside, artifacts, films, archival photos and displays immersed attendees in the Station’s grand history and promising future as a Ford innovation hub. The official announcement was held in front of the landmark station, with Ford leadership joined onstage by celebrities, the Michigan governor and the US Poet Laureate. With 25,000 attendees, including press from around the world, Ford and Detroit had a massive platform to share their vision of resurgence and growth.


To address public and press skepticism about its commitment to Detroit and to tech innovation, Ford had to share the full scope and vision of its plan for the landmark Station and its struggling Corktown neighborhood. It wanted to signal that this was about more than opening a new Ford innovation campus: it represented a transformational moment for the community, the city and the Ford business. From the outset, we realized that community and city partnership was key-- while our launch event needed stagecraft and spectacle it also needed to put the community front and center, with corporate messages secondary. We designed the event as a memorable, newsworthy experience, with Community and Detroit renaissance stories front and center. The goal: deliver the story with ground-level impact and a persuasive message that Ford, Detroit and the transportation industry were starting a dynamic new phase.


Excitement and anticipation started the week leading up to the announcement, with nightly projections of aspirational quotes from famed Detroiters projected on the Station’s facade. On Announcement Day, Ford Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Jim Hackett addressed the thousands of employees, community leaders and Corktown residents gathered for a program that featured entertainers, young entrepreneurs and policy makers. Over the subsequent weekend, we welcomed 25,000 visitors to enjoy an interactive experience that illustrated the Station’s glorious past, projected its exciting future and asked them– in interactive kiosks and displays– to share their “dreams for the future of Detroit.” The announcement event finalized 10 days after launch, concluding with the world premiere of a History channel documentary produced about Ford its Michigan Station, plans: DETROIT: COMEBACK CITY.


Ford’s announcement had a global impact, reaching 147M+ people via earned media and generating 541M+ social media impressions with 99+% favorability. Ford’s ambitious plans for both business and community led coverage in THE NEW YORK TIMES, CBS MORNING NEWS, the FINANCIAL TIMES and 230 other media outlets. Attention focused on Ford’s prioritizing local engagement throughout the project, designating significant community spaces across Ford’s properties, including in the enormous restored Station atrium. Months later, the impact has continued, with the implementation of Ford’s Community spending, with new real estate activity and with an influx of new non-Ford jobs throughout Corktown. The neighborhood is being seen– and covered– in a new light since Ford’s announcement, recasting Michigan Central Station as a Detroit Resurgence story. Ford, too, has seen heightened interest from press and new industry partners about its plans for the Station-based living laboratory.

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2023, FORD

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