Ford hands the estimated 18m pan-European advertising for its Cougar model to Young & Rubicam without so much as a pitch. And in the same week its main agency Ogilvy & Mather reinvents its Ford dedicated teams to mirror the structure of the car manufacturer’s loss-making European operation.
Could the two moves be in any way linked?
To be fair to O&M, its plans, revealed here for the first time, have been underway since before the start of the year. Sean Neall was recruited from the Detroit office of J Walter Thompson, where he ran the Ford business, to become client services director on the Ford of Europe account in January.
His brief was to recreate O&M’s European car operations in the mirror image of its Ford client, reflecting the car maker’s switch to a global brand management system.
It follows the move by its sister agency J Walter Thompson, which formed a dedicated media agency, Ford Motor Media, in the US after winning the battle for Ford’s $1.1bn (679m) media buying centralisation in June. It also created a separate subsidiary company called Kellogg Media Europe to house the cereal maker’s consolidated media account in May (MW May 15).
Although O&M is not creating a separate company it is doing everything but. It handles the account in every European market apart from Germany, where Y&R handles the business.
But in the past three years, Y&R has also picked up the pan-European accounts for the Galaxy and Puma models. And will handle next year’s launch of the Lincoln. So while O&M remains the lead European agency by a long way, there has been a loss of an estimated 80m potential business.
Its response is to mirror the structure adopted by Ford since it introduced a brand management system in Europe last year. The car maker’s restructure forms part of the Ford 2000 project, the brainchild of Ford chairman Alex Trotman, designed to introduce efficiencies into all areas of the manufacturing, marketing and sales of Ford worldwide. In simple terms, it means employing dedicated teams on particular model ranges.
The European brand management restructure is in the hands of Massimo Ghenzer, who recruited Jonathan Browning from General Motors (MW June 19) to be the executive director of marketing. Browning has overseen the O&M changes. As a result, O&M is creating a central European management team based in London to oversee all aspects of the Ford/O&M relationship across Europe. It will include heads of agency disciplines, involving research and strategy, regional brand directors and representatives from O&M’s local markets.
There will be four agency brand specific teams on Escort, Fiesta/Ka, large cars/speciality and commercial vehicles, each with pan-European marketing responsibilities. There will be a fifth group responsible for umbrella branding issues. Each team has a regional brand director responsible for reporting into the central European management team, a creative director and a representative from all the agency’s disciplines.
Patrick Collister, executive creative director in London, takes on additional responsibility as executive creative director for Ford of Europe. The creatives from each of the four brand teams will report to him.
Neall has also made three further appointments. The former Bates regional account director on Nokia, Greg Paull, joins as regional account director for the Escort group; an O&M insider, Kathleen Donald, becomes regional account manager on the umbrella branding group and direct marketing specialist Attila Keleman becomes regional account supervisor, central and Eastern Europe.
The four regional brand directors, who will head the four teams, are still to be appointed, but are expected to consist of internal and external appointees. It is understood that Paul Jackson, most recently executive managing partner at Ammirati Puris Lintas, and the person who has run the Rover business in Europe for several years, has been approached for one of the jobs.
The restructure creates a Ford-oriented central management for the first time.
“It is the responsibility of the client’s lead agency to act as a leader and that involves servicing the business properly,” says Neall. “This would be inappropriate for Y&R but with the scope of the business and the relationship we have, there is no choice but to fully align with Ford to meet our shared goals.
“This whole shift to brand management is to improve customer focus. The product line is in the building phase – it is more stylish, ingenious in design and has a point of view – the product is not everything but it is the most important element. The consumer will see a more customer focused company – that is the measure of health.”
Ironically, Ford of Europe has rarely appeared so unhealthy. According to Economist Intelligence Unit figures it lost 177m in 1996, is on course to lose 52m this year but is expected to return profits of 232m in 1998. That financial performance leaves it trailing all its main European rivals, except Renault.
That is the part of the reality which O&M won’t want to mirror.