Ford division taps WPP unit as lead agency

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Ford Motor Co. is expected to announce a major agency realignment in Europe this week that solidifies WPP Group's hold on the auto maker's accounts.

Ford's Land Rover picked Y&R Advertising as lead global agency on the $75 million account in a review against Grey Worldwide and independent HHCL, London. WPP acquired Y&R in October.

Incumbent WCRS, London, resigned from the account after Ford bought Land Rover from Germany's BMW in May. WCRS is BMW's long-time agency in the U.K.

Ford also is expected to shift the entire European Ford brand account to WPP's Ogilvy & Mather from Y&R. O&M had lost more than $200 million in business on the account in shootouts with Y&R since 1997.

POTENTIAL FOR ANXIETY

O&M handles Ford's Jaguar brand in North America. Sibling J. Walter Thompson has Jaguar in Europe, and the Ford brand in the U.S. and South America. Y&R handles Ford's Lincoln and Mercury brands in the U.S.

Ford's move in Europe may create anxiety at non-WPP shops handling the auto maker in the U.S. over whether-or when-the marketer will drop the other shoe here. Ford has been mulling a global agency realignment since late 1999.

Jim Schroer, VP of global marketing at Ford, was traveling for the holiday and unavailable for comment last week. He declined to comment when asked by Advertising Age about a month ago about the status of Ford's plans for a global agency realignment.

A Land Rover spokesman said John Edwards, marketing director at Land Rover's headquarters in England, last week told Jim Selwa, VP-marketing at Land Rover of North America, that Y&R will be the lead marketing partner for the brand worldwide.

But that assignment, at least for n0w, appears to focus largely on the U.K. and various European countries. The spokesman said Y&R's hiring will not affect Land Rover in the U.S. and that Land Rover of North America will stick with Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas.

GSD&M won the $35 million account in March before Ford acquired the brand. Land Rover expects the U.S. to displace the U.K. as its top sales market after it introduces Freelander, the brand's lowest-price SUV, next year.

Other non-WPP agencies with Ford business are Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, which handles Volvo globally, and Doner, Southfield, Mich., which has Mazda North American Operations' account.

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