The image of Ford's iconic Lincoln brand is about to be reinvented though a new partnership between the division and ad giant WPP, which is creating a dedicated New York-based creative agency as a spinoff of WPP's Team Detroit.
The venture, with a working name of Team Lincoln (it will change soon), will initially employ 45 people when it opens next month. It will be headed by Cameron McNaughton, a veteran automotive marketing consultant. The chief creative officer is Jon Pearce, recently exec creative director at BBH, New York.
"The question we asked is , how are we going to get noticed?" said Jim Farley, Ford's group VP-global marketing, sales and service. "Lincoln will have seven new products coming soon and a concept to show in Detroit" at the North American International Auto Show in January, he said. The overall concept is to revitalize the 96-year-old Ford luxury division "as a personalized brand for independent consumers," he added.
Some of the talent at the new shop -- located in Manhattan's Chelsea district because "it's a hip neighborhood," said Team Detroit CEO Satish Korde -- will be imported from Team Detroit's operation in Dearborn, Mich., while the rest will be recruited. "We're looking for the best talent," said Mr. Farley.
At the press conference Thursday in Manhattan, WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell looked on via television monitor from behind a desk in Dublin, where he was attending a board meeting, he said. Mr. Sorrell opened by acknowledging the death of Suzanne Hart, an employee of WPP's Y&R office at 285 Madison Ave., who died in a elevator accident in that building on Wednesday.
Moving on, Mr. Sorrell called the deal "the next chapter of a great brand. ... It will work hand-in-hand with Team Detroit," he said. "Our strong and unique relationship with Ford has allowed us to harness some of the best WPP talent around the globe, and it's a logical next step for us to extend this with a bespoke team for Lincoln."
Besides creative, the New York-based staff will handle media and strategic planning, although media buying, production and some other functions would remain in Dearborn. No budget figures were discussed, and Mr. Farley would say only that ad concepts and strategy would be "strong" out of the box -- whenever it is opened. Ford Marketing Communications Manager Matthew VanDyke said expanding the client roster beyond Lincoln wasn't in the initial plan. In addition to Ford, Team Detroit has Scott's Miracle Gro, Bell Helicopter and other clients.
The Lincoln brand, which will turn 100 in 2015, has been Ford's prestige marque since it was purchased by Henry Ford in 1922. But it lost some its luster in the past two decades, facing robust competition from GM's Cadillac, Toyota's Lexus, plus Audi, Acura and Mercedes-Benz. For 2011 as of November, Lincoln has sold about 77,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S., according to Automotive News.
Earlier this month, Swedish automaker Volvo adopted a new global advertising plan, doing away with "Team Volvo" and making Boston-based Havas' Arnold . the agency of record in both the U.K. and in China.