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Ford Shocks Madison Avenue And Chooses BBDO To Lead Ad Biz

Fadu News 2018-10-12 02:05:59

2,729 viewsOct 8, 2018, 09:18pm

David Kiley Contributori

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Ad agency BBDO shocked Madison Avenue, Wall Street and even many inside Ford Motor Company all at once by being named the automaker’s lead creative resource on Monday.

Ford executives a month ago were whispering that the agency had presented poorly and were priced to high to be considered seriously for the huge account. But In the end, after final presentations, said one Ford executive not authorized to speak to the media, “They came up with some very innovative and creative strategy and made very smart changes to the compensation aspect of the bid.”

Ford, in conducting the review for its advertising, is looking for new voices and strategies to tell its global story better. But it is also looking to wring greater savings out of the $2.4 billion it spends in North America and the $4.1 billion it spends globally on advertising. The company says it is looking for a roughly $150 million annual savings going forward. Ford last year spent more than $1.2 billion on measured marketing in the U.S last year, according to Kantar Media.

"Today is a big big day," BBDO Worldwide president and CEO Andrew Robertson said in a statement. "We have a wonderful new brand to help build. I could not be more proud of the hundreds of people around the world who made this happen, or more grateful to Ford for their confidence in us." Omnicom-owned digital experience agency Organic and TLGG Consulting will be part of the team handling the business.

Ford conducted its review looking at incumbent agency, WPP’s GTB, BBDO and Portland agency Wieden & Kennedy. In the end, all three agencies are getting work. Wieden & Kennedy is creating a Fall 4th quarter campaign for Ford, and will remain in the fold as a creative resource. GTB retains Ford’s China business, public affairs, the Lincoln brand, the U.S. dealer business and media buying. BBDO will assume duties for the automaker’s international brand advertising outside of China, which includes campaigns for individual models.

Wieden & Kennedy will continue with Ford as an “innovation partner,” which means the agency, best known for its Nike ad work, will be used tactically for various projects and campaigns.

GTB is definitely the big loser in this despite staying on Ford’s agency roster. "We gave this review everything we had: it was an extraordinary effort by the entire global team over many, many months," Global Team Blue CEO Satish Korde stated in an internal agency memo. "We accept this difficult decision with our heads held high and thank everyone for their contributions." Layoffs at GTB are expected. The agency employs some 3,000 people globally on the Ford account, which is WPP’s largest global piece of business.

WPP shares were off 1.44% today. Omnicom (BBDO's parent) shares were up 3.05%.

One of the advantages of having both BBDO and GTB working on the business at the same time going forward is that Ford has a foil on pricing going forward for each agency.

Historically, BBDO, part of the Omnicom Group, has had strong creative output, working currently and in recent years on brands such as Twix and Snickers candy, Barbie dolls, AT&T, Foot Locker, Pepsi, Wells Fargo and Procter & Gamble. On the public service front, the agency has done an award-winning anti-bullying campaign #DefyTheName. The campaign is built around successful people being introduced by the bullying names they were called whilst growing up. It’s hard not to view the searing campaign as a backhand slap, if not a middle-finger, to Donald Trump who is known for his public name-calling and shaming.

BBDO's win is huge for two reasons. One, even some Ford insiders had written off the agency in August. And WPP executives widely believed that they would lose a creative portion to Wieden & Kennedy, not BBDO, while keeping most of the business around the world. Apparently, the only ones involved who did not count out BBDO was the agency itself and Ford's global marketing chief James Farley.

BBDO’ past in the auto arena is mostly working with Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s. Omnicom also handles advertising for Nissan and Volkswagen.

In a previous era, Ford would have not considered shifting a major part of its advertising outside the WPP Group, because clients like Ford wanted holding-company exclusivity. But as all the big agency networks have purchased all the agencies that can handle accounts as large as Ford, those conflict issues have receded in importance.

Ford is in a predicament with its brand and its global business. In the U.S., it’s Ford brand is still very strong in pickup trucks and SUVs, but the passenger-car business has not been strong as U.S. consumers have migrated away from four-door sedans and hatchbacks. Globally, the company was late to grow its business on China. And it has no real luxury brand play. The Lincoln brand is weak in the U.S. and a fledgling business in China compared with other premium brands.

Ford has already announced it is leaving the passenger car business (except for the iconic Mustang) in favor of trucks, crossovers and SUVs.

Ford in recent years has tried to position it’s car and SUV business around various marketing themes and pitches, but none have stuck like the iconic “Built Ford Tough” campaign the company has used to market its trucks for the last four decades.

And Wall Street has not been kind to Ford’s stock for several years. Shares are down about one-third in the last four years since CEO Alan Mulally retired as CEO, while the broader market has climbed. Ford does pay a quarterly 15-cent dividend. Current CEO Jim Hackett assumed the role in May 2017 after Mulally’s successor Mark Fields was ousted.

This new agency model being assembled by Ford must solve one problem: how to create a compelling and consistent story through advertising, content marketing, public relations, dealer marketing, event marketing and so on in such a way that all quarters of the brand are singing off the same song-sheet.

The public has lost the plot about what Ford's non-pickup truck business stands for. Internally, even in the last year, Ford's executives are, as they have been for many years, torn between how much of the company's 100+ year heritage to play up, versus pointing relentlessly to the future.

Ford has had the same ad agency resource for 75 years, and along the way it created some very memorable work–notably “Built Ford Tough” and “Have You Driven a Ford Lately.” But a lot of forgettable often-changing ideas and storylines have come and gone.

Ford is beefing up its own internal digital and marketing strategy ranks by more than 100 new hires even as it pares other parts of the company in a downsizing announced last week.

Now that it has a whole new ad agency structure, the company has to come to grips with whether it is a good enough client and company to take advantage of all the new creative energy that follows a shakeup like this.

Currently, Editor-in-Chief of New Roads Media, I have covered all aspects of the auto industry for some thirty years for publications including USA Today, Businessweek, AOL Autos, Popular Mechanics, Adweek and Advertising Age. Besides my journalism experience, I have also wo...


David Kiley covers the global auto industry for and other outlets. He is co-author of the 2015 book: Writing The War: Chronicles of a WWII Correspondent. Prometheus Books.

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