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Ford Still Driving TV Deals

Ford has signed on as a major sponsor of CNN's Black in America 2. The African-American-focused news special attracted a diverse and relatively large audience when the first installment premiered last summer.

CNN has leveraged the program's viewer base to bring Ford on board, as well as insurer State Farm, which has not advertised on the network for several years. McDonald's is also a returning sponsor.

Black in America 2—a four-hour, two-night examination of African-American innovators and leaders—is scheduled for July 22-23. Sponsor deals are integrated across television and the Web, with billboards and tagged tune-ins during all Black in America 2-related content as well as pre-rolls, co-branded banners and display ads on Branded promos will begin airing in June.

Ford has escaped the fate of rivals General Motors and Chrysler. Last week, Chrysler entered government-mandated bankruptcy, and many expect GM to follow suit. But Ford has maintained its marketing presence, with TV spots featuring its Advantage Plan (which covers the cost of car payments for up to 12 months if a customer loses his job) in heavy rotation and integrated deals on Fox's American Idol for the fuel-efficient Ford Fusion.

Ford has extended its Black in America 2 buy to Essence magazine, a Time Inc. title and a co-producer of the BiA2 special CNN & Essence: Reclaiming the Dream. The program will be filmed in July at New Orleans' Essence Music Festival and premiere on CNN Aug. 1.

CNN's recent primetime ratings challenges—the network finished fourth in prime in the demo for April—has not had a significant impact on ad sales, according to Greg D'Alba, executive VP and COO of CNN ad sales and marketing. He says these deals are the realization of the value mandate in a recession-battered economy.

“Value is not about price point,” he says. “In a recession, we're seeing more and more advertisers that value the environment, that value the platform their content runs on. And it's not just to reach that one viewer who may be tuning in. It's to reach that one viewer who will tell nine other viewers about the product and about the program and why they should buy, why they should watch.”