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Ford's "Drive One" Campaign: Will It Drive You To Buy One?

The auto world may increasingly be steering itself towards doing business on the web, but at Ford, it's time to see if TV can still help shape the brand and image of a company.

This week, Ford starts rolling out its "Drive One" marketing campaign, with TV spots hitting the airwaves. Ford execs are laying out the campaign for dealers at meeting in Las Vegas, and will show more details to reporters tomorrow.

Suffice it to say, "Drive One" is a big deal for Ford. But so far, I'm reserving judgment on whether it will work.

"Drive One" is an updated play on Ford's classic campaign, "Have you driven a Ford lately?" It will focus on the attributes that Ford thinks are it's best selling points including safety and quality. Smart move by new marketing man Jim Farley. For too long Ford has been hamstrung by a lack of cohesive marketing or it's image as primarily a truck and SUV company.

In the Midwest, that's not a problem. But on both coasts, trucks are a tougher sell, and Ford's gas happy SUVs no longer rule the industry as they once did. There are so many other choices and getting past the Explorer/Firestone controversy took a toll. But in Dearborn that's all in the rear view mirror.

In fact, Ford thinks that it has the quality and style of automobiles people want. It's just a matter of getting those people into a dealership. See, Ford's own research shows that once people drive a Ford they are likely to buy it, but the company struggles to get people into the showroom. Which is why "Drive One" is a big deal. So much so, Ford will be spending tens of millions to get the message out. On the web, on TV, on billboards.

Why am I reserving judgment on whether it will work? Because standing out in a crowded auto market is tough enough. Redefining a company is even tougher. Let me give you an example. A friend of mine has been in the market for an SUV/minivan/CUV. Something with capacity, room, versatility. So I threw out some suggestions.

Toyota Siena minivan? "Yes, I am thinking about it."

Volvo XC90? "Yeah, maybe."

Ford Edge? "No. I'm not interested."

When we got into why he's apprehensive about the Edge, I found out he didn't really have a legitimate reason. He basically just wrote off Ford.

That's the challenge Farley and his team are facing. They need "Drive one" to convince people to at least try a Ford. If this company can do that, then perhaps it will truly have a shot at redefining itself.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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