When I was an M.B.A. student learning about research, I fantasized about the kind of sophisticated, high-tech, super-secret research techniques that companies like ABC would use. (Yes, I know that’s geeky, but don’t worry…I had normal fantasies too!)

Anyway, I learned just how wrong I had been when I graduated and went to work for Reymer & Gersin Associates. R&G (now long defunct) was mainly into TV news, and I got the opportunity to work with the honchos from companies like NBC, CBS, Gannett, and, yes, ABC. What I discovered is they weren’t at the cutting edge of marketing, or research, and some weren’t even especially bright. (I mean, I’ve worked with radio G.M.s in sub-200 markets who have more on the ball than some execs at the highest echelons of broadcasting.)

All this is a prelude to my thought that it’s amazing how some of the biggest companies in America can screw up so badly.

Case in point: Ford. It’s in the dumper right now and living near Detroit of course I hear a lot about it. And I see people who are suffering because of it.

Now, Product Is King in the car industry and, as an auto aficionado, I could rant about how most Ford products are bland and boring, etc. But I won’t go there. Instead, I want to discuss something closer to all of our hearts: advertising. Ford’s is clearly off the mark.

Take the oh so earnest spots where Bill Ford tells us how “innovation” will be Ford’s mission going forward. How misguided. Does the auto buyer really care about innovation? Or does he or she want a car that looks good, runs good, gets great gas mileage and lasts beyond the payment book? (No need to answer…that was a rhetorical question.)

If I care about innovation, it’s only how innovation will benefit ME. But Bill Ford’s ad isn’t about me or any other consumer…it’s about Ford.

Then there’s the “Bold Moves” campaign for Ford-branded products. It’s fast-paced, hip, contemporary and totally full of it!

Honestly, when you think Ford do you think BOLD? Even if I don’t think negative thoughts about Ford products, I don’t think bold. Solid, strong, American, heritage, fun sometimes. Not bold. Ford is, as Trout & Ries would put it, “advertising its aspirations.” It wants to be bold. It wants be be innovative. And it just isn’t. I’m just not “buying” this message and apparently not many consumers are either.

Here are two crucial points about advertising and what it means for your station’s advertising.

1) Most importantly, it has to be based in some reality. Don’t tell me something that runs counter to my beliefs ’cause I’m going to reject it out of hand. For example, if your station has a image of having too much clutter and not enough music, a campaign touting your “most music” is not going to solve the problem!

2) Ideally, it focuses on the consumer…who he is, how he thinks and how my product is going to benefit him. Here’s where most radio station campaigns fall down, because they tend to focus on programming attributes rather than benefits For example, a campaign touting how funny your morning team is good (if true), but one that says “Wake Up Laughing” is better because it puts the emphasis where it belongs…on the consumer.

Why do I know this and Ford doesn’t???