It’s been seven weeks since everyone started talking about Matthew McConaughey driving a Lincoln in daily TV ads, but no one seems to be rushing out to their local dealer to buy an MKC luxury SUV. The much-buzzed-about ads with McConaughey's evoking his "True Detective" role aren’t having much effect on the possibility that people will buy a Lincoln, according to BrandIndex, which measures public perception of brands.
A report from BrandIndex suggests that the percentage of potential car buyers who would consider Lincoln when they go shopping is now about the same as it was before. When the McConaughey Lincoln campaign launched after Labor Day, the percentage of potential car buyers who said they would consider a Lincoln when they go car-shopping actually dropped from 8 percent on Sept. 11 to 5 percent one week later. By Oct. 13, that number went up to 9 percent.
But now, after all the buzz, hoopla and think pieces, the percentage is back where it was before the Lincoln ads aired: around 8 percent.
The ads generated parodies from Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O'Brien, and gave Lincoln some of the best ad awareness and consumer-perception numbers they'd had in a long time, but can the McConaughey Lincoln ad campaign be considered a success if it brings awareness for the brand without the potential for increased sales?
"One ad campaign these days is not expected to greatly impact sales, as much as marketers would like," said Eli Portnoy, brand stragegist at CultureRanch. "In the Lincoln Matthew McConaughey case," he said, "I suspect their primary goal is to slowly but surely change consumer perception of the old out-of-date Lincoln brand. It will likely take a few years, in my opinion, of very strategic ads and other consumer touchpoint efforts to change the stodgy geriatric image of this car brand. Getting a good brand buzz through increased awareness is a good first step but just that…a first step that must be substantiated consistently."
The Lincoln deal with McConaughey is multiyear and will include digital spots created by Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn that attempt to get viewers to experience the MKC through "unscripted moments" with McConaughey.
Doug Shabelman of Burns Entertainment similarly evaluates the ads' success based on their long-term rather than short-term success. "I think Lincoln is betting on the longer term than the shorter. Sure they would like to see immediate return on investment in terms of sales right away, but building excitement and awareness is really the first step for them. Campaigns sometimes need time to build. Additionally, building excitement for the dealers and sales staff is an important element as well—a massive star who says he trusts and loves the car gives them something to talk about with prospective buyers and that in and of itself will help the brand differentiate from others."
And although industry analysts wouldn't go on record to speculate how much the Lincoln/McConaughey collaboration cost the brand, a few estimated that the figure, including production costs and fees to McConaughey, were probably somewhere in the ballpark range of $2 million to $5 million.