The former General Motors marketing VP accepted the job of chief operation officers at WPP Global Team Ford on July 31. An hour after signing his contract, Mr. LaNeve said, he bought a white 2013 Ford Explorer with a black interior.
On Aug. 20, his third day on the job, Mr. LaNeve, 53, spoke to Automotive News about moving to the agency side of the business.
His duties include running the daily operations of WPP Global Team Ford, Ford's worldwide ad agency. That means working with Team Detroit plus Ford's agencies in London, Brazil and Shanghai, and the Lincoln agency in New York. Mr. LaNeve will meet with Ford's dealer marketing groups and eventually help build dealer advertising groups in Asia.
"Asia's going to be a huge opportunity as our business grows, not just on the brand side and launch but on the dealer side," he said.
Mr. LaNeve started his career at GM, then took a detour to Volvo Cars of North America in 1997, where he was VP-marketing and later CEO. Volvo was then owned by Ford. He returned to GM in 2001 as head of Cadillac and later becoming the North American sales and marketing boss.
In 2009 he became chief marketing officer of Allstate Corp. in Northbrook, Ill., where, among other things, he oversaw the popular "Mayhem" advertising campaign.
Mr. LaNeve left Allstate in February and in mid-May emailed his resume to Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas.
"I was contacted by a couple of other car companies, but Ford is the only one I reached out to," Mr. LaNeve said.
There was no opening at Ford, but Mr. Fields and Jim Farley, Ford's marketing chief, gave Satish Korde, Team Detroit's CEO, the green light to phone Mr. LaNeve. Mr. Korde had been looking for help to handle the agency's largest client, Ford.
"Mark brings this unbelievable knowledge of an area which we don't directly get involved in, and that 's going to educate all of my team," Mr. Korde says.
Ford is banking on Mr. LaNeve's luxury car experience.
Mr. LaNeve is credited with reviving Cadillac in the early 2000s. Ford wants to rebuild Lincoln with improved products and marketing. Mr. Korde says a new Lincoln ad campaign will be released in November to launch the redesigned 2013 MKZ sedan.
But Lincoln faces challenges that are different from those Cadillac faced a decade ago, Mr. LaNeve said. Today's light-vehicle market in the United States is smaller than the 17.2 million units sold in 2001. It's more competitive, and the digital, viral flow of information is much different, he said.
"It's a different environment, but Ford has a plan for Lincoln that includes a new design language with one product after another over a period of years," Mr. LaNeve said. "I'm going to learn about it and see how I can contribute."
Jamie LaReau is a reporter for Automotive News