Ford goes in-house for brand content deals

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In a blow to WPP Group, its biggest client Ford Motor Co. has quietly moved strategic entertainment planning across all its brands in-house and hired a Ford family member in Hollywood as a consultant.

The account, which included product placement and brand content development, had been handled by WPP's Amplify, Los Angeles, formed recently via a merger of two WPP units, J. Walter Thompson USA's Brand Entertainment Group and Hill & Knowlton's Showcase. Brand Entertainment Group, a unit inside JWT, had handled many of Ford's TV deals while Showcase had Ford's account for at least a decade. Amplify will continue to handle the marketer's vehicle fleet for Hollywood.

Hollywood face

Ford's Miles Romero, brand-media-integration manager, and Mark Kaline, global media manager, will now be the marketer's "face" in Hollywood, a spokeswoman said. Mr. Romero, who travels frequently to the West Coast from Ford's headquarters in suburban Detroit, may move to California, Mr. Kaline said.

"We wanted to create one point of entry" for entertainment-related ideas, said Mr. Kaline. "Having Ford people at the point instead of an agency person is valuable because it cuts out a layer of the process." The new setup "casts a wider net for these ideas and gets them into the hands of the brands" for faster decisions, he added.

Just a year ago, Ford said it was looking for more integrated and broader solutions beyond Hollywood for its entertainment deals (AA, June 16). "It's not that we felt the old setup was not effective," said Mr. Kaline. "We felt strongly about doing this a little bit better, so it's just a tuning adjustment." He denied claims that the move is designed to cut costs.

The automaker hired Al Uzielli, the great-great-grandson of Henry Ford and cousin of Ford Chairman Bill Clay Ford Jr., as its consultant in Hollywood on entertainment matters, the spokeswoman confirmed. Mr. Uzielli has been a film producer in Hollywood for about a decade and owns La Dolce Vita restaurant in Beverly Hills, a hangout for stars, directors and other Hollywood types. Mr. Uzielli was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, Rob Donnell, executive director and chief of Amplify, parted in late June from JWT, where he had worked 17 years. He would only say branded entertainment "is an exciting new field and I'm pretty sure there's a lot of new opportunities out there."

Ford's garage of car brands include Ford, Lincoln-Mercury, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin and Mazda, in which it holds a controlling stake.

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