AD AGE POWER 50;AUTOMOTIVE;BIG 3 CARMAKERS TURN MARKETING INTO A STRONG SUIT, AND IN THE PROCESS BUILD BRANDS WITH SHARPER FOCUS

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Brand building is finally getting its day in Detroit.

That's one reason automakers are finding it easier to attract powerhouse marketing talent from outside the automotive industry. Within the last year, General Motors Corp. brought in Ronald Zarrella and Chrysler Corp. hired Louis Patane, both for positions keyed to clarifying and strengthening brand images.

Since joining GM a decade ago, Philip Guarascio has profoundly shaped the media front and has become a recognized industry leader on issues affecting advertisers. Ford Motor Co.'s Robert Rewey, a 32-year veteran of the company, reshaped the industry by making leasing a powerful marketing tool, and is now heading up worldwide marketing and sales in Ford's dramatic global overhaul of its business.

These members of the Ad Age Power 50 are in a uniquely strong position to affect the industry because marketing is playing a bigger role in sorting out winners and losers. The auto market already is saturated with models that can boast high quality and impressive technology. That means the advantage goes to a company that can build potent brands based on consistent products and services communicated to customers.

Pushed by Chairman John Smale to look outside of the auto industry for a top marketing executive, GM found a match with Mr. Zarrella, who was president-chief operating officer of Bausch & Lomb Corp.

Mr. Zarrella, 46, serving as GM's VP-group executive in charge of North American sales, service and marketing, is spearheading a drive to put a brand management system into place across the automaker's vehicle divisions. The system borrows from package-goods marketers-and indeed, GM is looking at candidates from outside the auto industry to fill some of the 30 brand manager spots that will be created by the end of this year.

Mr. Zarrella also is playing an important part in sorting out brand identities, for instance in deciding this year that GMC Truck and not Cadillac should get a luxury sport-utility vehicle for its lineup.

"He's been a real champion for the marketing guys," says Steve Shannon, general marketing manager at GM's Oldsmobile division, who added that Mr. Zarrella's brand management program has put a spotlight on marketing's role inside GM.

"It's given the marketing people renewed enthusiasm."

Mr. Patane, 45, joined Chrysler last month in the newly created position of executive director-brand marketing, leaving behind his Dodge and Chrysler-Plymouth/Jeep-Eagle dealerships in Avondale, Ariz.

Creation of the position signals that "we want to put even more time and focus into building brands," says Mr. Patane's boss, A.C. "Bud" Liebler, Chrysler's VP-marketing and communications.

Chrysler also wants to tap Mr. Patane's expertise on the retail side of the business. As the total number of automotive dealers shrinks, those remaining have grown in size and power. Automakers, fighting for shelf space, are trying to forge closer bonds with dealers, involving them in everything from selection of ad agencies to planning future products.

Mr. Guarascio's promotion to a VP spot last year confirmed the important role he plays as general manager-marketing and advertising for GM's North American Operations. He has played a high-profile role with the automaker since joining GM a decade ago, when he left his agency position as senior VP-director of media management at what was then Benton & Bowles.

He originally became known for carrying out GM's plan to squeeze costs on the agency and media side, and for the staggering size of media deals-such as the three-year, $750 million pact struck with NBC in 1990.

More recently, Mr. Guarascio has been viewed as an important ally inside GM for its marketing programs. His most ambitious marketing initiative involved the 1992 introduction of the GM Card, a MasterCard program that lets holders earn rebates on vehicle purchases.

More recently, he directed a consolidation of GM's national TV and print buying business at two units of Interpublic Group of Cos. Mr. Guarascio, 54, also has been a leader among national advertisers insisting on independent audience measurements for interactive media.

Mr. Rewey, group VP-marketing and sales for Ford's Automotive Operations, began the big growth in auto leasing by pushing Ford to put the emphasis on 24-month contracts.

"When everyone else was at 48 months [on lease contracts]," notes Ross Roberts, VP-general manager of Ford Division, Mr. Rewey "believed very strongly that the increase in owner loyalty would make the shorter lease term pay off."

Owner loyalty has increased because of both increased customer satisfaction and Ford's focus on targeting lessees who are coming back into the market.

Mr. Rewey, 57, has a key role now in the worldwide development of vehicles.

Under Ford's globalization plan, five vehicle centers in the U.S. and Europe will develop products for world markets.

With Mr. Rewey overseeing marketing planning and research, his role is to make sure Ford hears the voice of the customer in every market and factors it into the products being developed.

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Ronald Zarrella

General Motors Corp.

Ad budget: $1.4 billion

Agency roster: N.W. Ayer & Partners; Campbell-Ewald; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles; McCann-Erickson Worldwide; McCann/SAS; Hal Riney & Partners.

Career: Held manufacturing, logistics and engineering management positions at Bristol-Myers Co., 1971-'79. From there, he joined Playtex Corp., where his posts included VP-operations, assistant to the president of Playtex International and general manager of Australian operations. Moved to Bausch & Lomb Corp. in 1985 as president-operations for the Far East, Latin America and Canada before moving to executive VP in 1992 and president-chief operating officer in 1993. In December 1994, he joined GM as VP and group exec in charge of North American sales, service and marketing.

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Louis Patane

Chrysler Corp.

Ad budget: $758 million

Agency roster: Bozell Worldwide; BBDO Worldwide; Ross Roy Communications.

Career: Began his automotive career in 1979 as a general manager for Magnum Enterprises, an automotive machining company specializing in racing applications. Later became a multi-franchise Chrysler dealer, as principal owner of Louis Dodge and Louis Chrysler-Plymouth/Jeep-Eagle in Avondale, Ariz. Served as chairman of the National Dodge Dealer Council in 1994 and served as member of the National Council from 1986 to 1994. Joined Chrysler as executive director-brand marketing in September 1995.

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Robert Rewey

Ford Motor Co.

Ad budget: $920 million

Agency roster: J. Walter Thompson USA; Young & Rubicam; Ogilvy & Mather; Wells Rich Greene BDDP.

Career: Joined Ford in 1963 as statistical analyst at Ford Division, where he held several field sales and general-office positions. In 1973, he joined the company's marketing staff as advertising and merchandising plans manager and subsequently moved through Lincoln-Mercury positions, including ad manager, general marketing manager and general sales manger. Named VP-general manager of Lincoln-Mercury in 1984 and general manager of the Ford Division a year later. Became VP-sales for North American Operations in 1988,

and moved up to group VP-marketing and sales for Ford Automotive Operations in 1994.

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Philip Guarascio

General Motors Corp.

Ad budget: $1.4 billion

Agency roster: N.W. Ayer & Partners; Campbell-Ewald; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles; McCann-Erickson Worldwide; McCann/SAS; Hal Riney & Partners.

Career: Joined Benton & Bowles, New York, as assistant media buyer in 1964 and moved steadily through media-department ranks to become senior VP-director of media management. Went to GM in 1985 as executive director-advertising services. Since then, has served as executive director-advertising and strategic merchandising and executive director-marketing and advertising, before being appointed general manager-marketing and advertising for North American Operations in 1992. He was elected a VP in 1994.

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