Health and Wellness > Health Awareness & Advocacy



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Why is this work relevant for Branded Content & Entertainment?

COVID-19 was ravaging the US - infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths were rising steeply.

Conversely, messages to encourage mask wearing were being ignored by a large segment of the population.

A different message - and new messenger - were needed. Ford Motor Company has a long history of stepping up in moments of crisis; the Coronavirus pandemic was no different.

We used branded content to get a message out that America could get back to living by adopting COVID-safe behaviors.

Our content was an emotional public service announcement that raised awareness of this issue and featured in broadcast news


As 2020 concluded, US Public Health officials were alarmed that COVID infections were climbing while compliance with COVID mask guidance was falling.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projected that more than 500,000 Americans would die of the coronavirus by the end of March 2021 – and a lack of people adhering to the scientific advice was contributing to this seismic tally.

The “mask up” messages weren’t working. We needed a new message - and messenger.

Ford—already actively manufacturing masks, ventilators, respirators and air filters—wanted us to use its credibility with this audience (many of them Ford customers) to encourage COVID-safe behavior but with a message of hope and optimism to help America get back to living.

Finish Strong encouraged Americans to protect each other by following health protocols in the pandemic’s ‘final stage’, with the objective of helping save tens of thousands lives.

Describe the creative idea

We compiled data from IHME, the New York Times and Johns Hopkins to identify the states that were COVID hotspots.

With a combined population of 166 million, we made impact calculations to determine where our content and masks were needed most.

Acknowledging a lack of engagement with scientific advice, our creative idea was to encourage protector behavior versus ‘mask shaming’, guided by University of Michigan studies on health communication effectiveness.

Our branded content captured the humanity of the public health crisis and encouraged people to come together and look out for each other to ‘Finish Strong’.

We added a stirring soundtrack and a compelling voiceover by actor Bryan Cranston, using photojournalism from coverage of frontline health care responders (to capture the urgent present) alongside footage from pre-pandemic public events (to evoke the optimistic future).

Describe the strategy

Our insight was that Ford has a long-standing trust and credibility among US truck owners.

Recognizing this audience was at high risk from mask avoidance, we engaged Emmy-nominated filmmaker Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights; Patriots Day) to create an unmissable piece of branded content which acted as a public service announcement campaign (:15, :30, :60) that captured the humanity of the public health crisis, resonated with “heartland” brand loyalists, and conveyed an urgent message that prompted behavioral shifts.

Our key message honed in on what Americans can achieve — together— with the right protective behaviors.

We established our primarily male target audience would be reached best through their sports fandom which we would achieve via TV placements around college football and Super Bowl ad placements as well as sportscaster, athlete and team endorsements.

Describe the execution

Our biggest challenge was time. The urgency in hospitalizations and deaths as a result of COVID-19 emerged in late 2020, and a ticking clock indicated January 2021 could be disastrous without immediate changes in behavior.

The entire ‘Finish Strong’ branded content campaign was conceived, produced, implemented and on-air within three weeks during the 2020 Holiday season.

We targeted high-impact media vehicles - New Year’s Weekend College Football Bowl games and NFL games (the best platforms to reach the intended audiences), followed by a regional Super Bowl effort, targeting the markets where our message could have the most impact.

Paid digital and social covered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Ford and IHME health experts did press interviews.

Overall, Ford invested nearly $5MM in paid media and rallied sports broadcast, dealer, union and public health partners to engage in the effort and help share the PSA.

Describe the outcome

Ford’s “Finish Strong” delivered over 800 million impressions across the two phases and in earned media. This included national coverage on Good Morning America, USA Today, NBC News, CNBC, CNN, CBS Morning News, Fox, Forbes and more.

Ford platforms, dealer networks, affiliates and employees added to the overall social sharing across Twitter and Facebook. First responders and health professional organizations amplified the message through their members and social platforms.

Athletes from the NCAA, NFL and NASCAR (Ford Performance team) amplified “Finish Strong”, sharing digital assets that added more than 5 million impressions.

Social media sentiment was overwhelmingly positive (82% per BrandWatch) and Ford’s #FinishStrong Super Bowl spot scored high in overall favorability.

The impact was so significant that Ford ranked on the 2021 Consumer Brand Trust Index (along with Apple, Amazon and Pfizer) - the first time an automaker made the list in three years.

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