Ford pokes fun at tech visionaries in new 'Built Ford Proud' ad campaign that aims to boost lagging sales

  • "Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston anchors the new "Built Ford Proud" ad campaign that kicks off this weekend.
  • The campaign pokes fun at today's high-tech visionaries while touching on the company's historical American roots and "Built Ford Tough" slogan of past campaigns.
  • The ads come at a crucial time for Ford, whose U.S. sales are down 2.4 percent this year.
2019 Ford Ranger
Source: Ford Motor Co. 
2019 Ford Ranger

Ford, which is wrestling with slowing sales and a stock price at its lowest level in nine years, is trying to overhaul its image and juice its sales with a new ad campaign.

"Breaking Bad" star Bryan Cranston anchors the new "Built Ford Proud" ad campaign that kicks off with a series of television commercials set to air during college football games this weekend.

"Talk doesn't get things done, building does ... like we have for the last 115 years," Cranston says against a variety of scenes that poke fun at today's high-tech visionaries while touching on the company's historical American roots and "Built Ford Tough" slogan of past campaigns. "Let the other guys keep dreaming about the future. We'll be the ones building it."

The ads come at a crucial time for Ford. Its overall U.S. sales are down 2.4 percent this year and Ford brand sales have fallen 11.3 percent. By comparison, it's being outperformed by the rest of the auto industry's sales, which are down by an average of less than 1 percent. GM's sales are down 1.2 percent this year and Fiat Chrysler's are up 6.4 percent. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas downgraded Ford's stock Friday, saying its earnings and cash flow are under pressure and its dividend is at risk.

"Every Ford employee I know comes to work each day proud to drive a Ford vehicle and to build great products, services and experiences for our customers," Joy Falotico, Ford group vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement. "That's at the heart of this campaign."

For years, Ford's tag line, "Built Ford Tough" has been an effective and memorable marketing slogan. But with sales lagging and the company preparing to launch a number of new vehicles including an all-new mid-size pickup truck, Ford decided it was time to refresh its image. Over the next two years, Ford plans to replace three-quarters of its lineup of vehicles and start phasing out many of the cars it currently sells.

"This is a big step in the right direction for Ford's marketing," said Jeremy Acevedo, manager of industry analysis for the auto website Edmunds.com. "It gives the company a voice to the sweeping changes it has planned."

He called it a "breath of fresh air for the dealers, especially given the aging lineup of cars and trucks in showrooms."

While the new ad campaign will be welcomed by Ford dealers, it's unclear the marketing move will do much to change how investors view Ford shares. The stock is down 30 percent since June and hovers at its lowest level since 2009.

At the heart of the sell-off is mounting questions on Wall Street about Ford's plans to restructure its operations. In a research note to clients earlier this week, Consumer Edge analyst Jamie Albertine wrote, "We remain concerned about the lack of detail supporting management's vision for the company."

Ford is scheduled to report third quarter earnings after the bell on Wednesday.

Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com.

2019 Ford Edge ST 
Source: Ford Motor Co. 
2019 Ford Edge ST