The writing was on the wall, or actually in the ad spend, that Ford would be discontinuing the manufacturing of all but two of its car models. Ford dramatically shifted its ad spend from a nearly 50/50 split on cars and trucks/SUVs in 2016 to 85% allocated to trucks and SUVs in September 2018. In April, Ford announced it would produce only the Mustang and the Focus Active car lines.

Media Monitors tracked Ford’s ad spending from 2016 through September of this year and saw a shift in 2017 spending when the company reallocated 11% of its radio, TV and cable advertising budget to trucks and sports utility vehicles. It is now at 85%, while ad spending to market cars is down to 15%.

Media Monitor’s analysis of the data show that Ford and its dealers had been moving money away from car advertising for some time, from 45% of its ad budget for radio, TV and cable in 2016 to it being just one-third of the ad budget a year later.

“Ad spend data is a leading indicator: a reliable guide to where a manufacturer is heading,” Media Monitors said in its release on the study.

Ford’s regional and dealer associations followed the manufacturer’s lead, adjusting their ad spending the same way. Media Monitors found the dealer associations share of ad budget on SUVs increased from 42% to 66% from 2016 to 2018. Through September associations were spending less than a quarter of what they had allocated for cars in 2016.

Combining Tier 1 and Tier 2 (OEMs and dealer associations) Media Monitors showed the shift happening a year before the company made its announcement this past Spring. Ford and its dealer associations devoted 57% of their total ad budget on SUVs and trucks in 2016. The following year, the share was up to 71% - an increase of 14 percentage points. In September that number was at 88.5%. The increase of spending on trucks and SUVs comes at the expense of car advertising, which now sits at 11.5%, less than a quarter of what it was.

“When both tiers move in the same direction – increasing or decreasing spend in tandem – it is a certain indicator of a corporate strategy in motion,” the ad tracking service wrote.

While the budgets are shifting due to consumer demand and manufacturer decisions, they are also shrinking, Media Monitor warns. Ford plans to make $11.5 billion in cuts over the next five years. This is on top of its previously announced $14 billion in cuts. More than half of these cuts are expected to affect the sales and marketing divisions and budgets.