As Predicted: Major WPP Client Begins Global Creative Review

Steve’s breakdown: A client I worked on while at J. Walter Thompson in the ’80s could be leaving WPP. In fact, Ford has been with JWT For-Freaking-Ever!! (plus before “forever” they had the account in 1911)

Talk about flipping the bird at people on the way in (when Sir Martin bought the agency in 1986) and on the way out (Losing Ford)

Anyway, I’m barring the Headline. Ford Global Creative is in Review.

DEERBORN, MI: Ford has put its global creative account into review, putting incumbent WPP on the defensive at the same time it searches for a new CEO.

The account, now held at WPP’s Global Team Blue, has been under strain for months as the automaker began re-evaluating its marketing model as part of a larger “fitness” initiative that includes slashing $14 billion in spending on materials and engineering in the next five years. Now Ford is taking the next step by formally putting the account up for bid. An RFP is expected to be released next month.

In a memo issued Friday, Detroit-based Global Team Blue notified employees of the pending review. “WPP will have an opportunity to compete with other firms to retain these portions of the business, and will remain Ford’s agency of record in some other key areas,” GTB CEO Satish Korde stated in the memo. Excluded from the review are Ford’s China business, public affairs, the U.S. dealer business and Ford’s luxury Lincoln brand, now parked at WPP’s Hudson Rogue, according to the memo. “We will be enthusiastically responding to Ford’s request for review in the days ahead, and have every confidence we will retain a substantial proportion, if not all, of the business under review,” Korde stated in the memo.

Ford in a statement confirmed that it is “going to place some portions of our advertising business up for bid with other agencies, including WPP, beginning in the coming weeks. No decisions have been made.” The automaker added that it is “committed to driving greater marketing efficiency, effectiveness and customer insight, leveraging the latest tools and technology.”

Ford is one of WPP’s most important accounts. The automaker is the nation’s ninth-largest advertiser, shelling out $2.3 billion in 2016, according to the Ad Age Datacenter. Globally, Ford reported advertising costs in 2016 of $4.3 billion or 2.83% of total revenue.

The review threatens to end one of the longest-running agency-client relationships across all industries. Ford has continuously worked with WPP agencies since 1943, when it hired J. Walter Thompson. JWT had earlier worked on Ford from 1910-1912 in the Model T era. WPP created a multiagency dedicated Ford entity called Team Detroit in 2006 that was rebranded to Global Team Blue last year. GTB is headquartered near Ford’s offices in Dearborn, Michigan, and has offices around the globe.

But massive changes have occured at Ford in recent months, putting Global Team Blue on the hot seat. Jim Hackett was named Ford CEO last May, replacing Mark Fields. Joy Falotico, the former Ford Credit CEO, took over as chief marketing officer this past March as part of a management overhaul that included the departure of North American president Raj Nair, who left the company after an internal investigation uncovered “inappropriate behavior.”

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