Korde reigns over all of WPP's Ford biz

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WPP Group quietly elevated Young & Rubicam Vice Chairman Satish Korde, 53, to be the holding company's No. 1 emissary on its $1.5 billion Ford Motor Co. account.

Mr. Korde, previously worldwide account managing director on Young & Rubicam's Ford business, will be president of a new Ford Motor Co. Group inside WPP and will work with all its networks handling Ford, principally Y&R, J. Walter Thompson Co. and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.

The appointment reflects Ford's desire for access to top talent throughout its holding company's operations, and Mr. Korde will function as a top cop on the Ford accounts at the various WPP agencies, which have tended to compete with each other on the business in the past.

Other global advertisers have crafted similar arrangements. Tim Davis serves as worldwide account coordinator for Unilever business at WPP agency networks and Omnicom Group named Matt Seiler as holding company brand czar for its PepsiCo business. At Publicis Groupe, Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts assumed the added role of "brand navigator" for all Procter & Gamble Co. brands at Publicis networks.

broad powers

Jim O'Connor, Ford's group VP-marketing sales and service, North America, said if there's a high-level opening at one Ford agency, Mr. Korde can help find a heavy hitter from anywhere within WPP's networks. He may also assist the WPP agencies, if necessary, in broad strategies and matters involving key agency personnel.

The decision came after Ford called a meeting with WPP in December. The message at that meeting, said Ford's Mr. O'Connor, "was `we are your biggest customer worldwide and we expect the best service from you folks."' The new arrangement, he said, "is the next evolution of the relationship. This is a two-way street between Ford and WPP."

no infighting

Afterwards, Ford made a written commitment to WPP that it would keep its business with WPP agencies stable and did not want WPP agencies trying to steal Ford business from one other.

Mr. O'Connor told Advertising Age, "We do not expect any WPP agencies to snip at each other."

Mr. Korde described WPP's new deal with Ford as "an agency's dream" because "the client wants to be our partner and starts behaving like one."

Mr. Korde's job responsibilities are still being hammered out, but he will work directly with Mr. O'Connor and Joe Greenwell, VP-marketing operation for Ford outside the U.S. His office is at Ford's marketing headquarters in Dearborn and not at any of the WPP agencies in the Detroit area that serve Ford. Mr. Korde will report directly to WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell.

Ford has already acted to stabilize its WPP agency arrangement. New policies, instituted since December, limit the autonomy of Ford regional chiefs around the globe to call agency reviews. Now if a Ford executive wants to call a review, he or she has to contact Mr. O'Connor or Mr. Greenwell and first explain what has been done to correct the issues that led to a breakdown in the relationship. WPP's Mr. Korde may get involved next to counsel both sides. If those steps fail to resolve the issues, then a review can be called.

contributing: lisa sanders and laurel wentz

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