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Bob mancini knew the final "Seinfeld" episode would be the biggest media event of the year, and he wanted his client to somehow be part of it.

He and his staff at Ford Motor Media talked with Entertainment Weekly about how to tie into the show and as a result his client, Ford Motor Co., became sole sponsor of EW's special "Seinfeld" edition.


"This was a way for us to capitalize on the show at a fraction of what it would take to sponsor the show," says Mr. Mancini, senior partner-executive director of Ford Motor Media, the automaker's dedicated buying agency.

The Detroit-based shop was formed as a subsidiary of J. Walter Thompson USA after the Ford roster agency won the $1.1-billion consolidated U.S. media buying account in April 1997. It has grown slowly to a staff of 40.

Before its formation, each Ford brand planned and bought media via its own ad agency. Now, the dedicated buying shop handles Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar, and Mazda vehicle brands, as well as smaller divisions including Ford Credit and the Visteon Automotive Systems parts unit.

Ford is the last of Detroit's Big Three carmakers to centralize media. General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. gave their accounts to dedicated media agencies earlier. Chrysler is the only one with both planning and buying at one shop- BBDO Worldwide's Pentacom subsidiary, Troy, Mich.


Splitting planning and buying "allows us to be closer to the marketplace and what we want to buy," says David Ropes, director of corporate advertising and integrated marketing at Ford.

The system also sparks more innovation, he adds, because ideas can come from planners or buyers.

Andrew Prakken, who as executive director of communications services at JWT, Detroit, is the planner on Ford Division's account. He says it also allows planners to fully integrate all consumer contacts with brands.

"To do that, you've got to have planning part of the process to big ideas right from the incubation stage into creative development," he explains. "If you take that all out and put it at another company, you don't have as much integration of the total communications."


Ford Motor Media has been saving the client money since its formation, says Mr. Ropes, declining to give specifics. But he believes the biggest benefit of consolidated media buying is flexibility.

He cites Ford's recent one-year deal with News Corp., starting this fall on its network and cable TV and Internet properties.

Smaller Ford advertisers, like Jaguar and the Visteon parts unit, get better media access because they share in the consolidated buying.

Mr. Ropes oversees the carmaker's internal Ford Central Media, which interfaces with Ford Motor Media, Ford clients and their ad agencies. His two managers, Herb Meyers, for print, and Mark Kaline, for broadcast, sit in on all planning meetings at the vehicle divisions.

Media planning is still handled by agency planners with each of their Ford clients. In addition to JWT, Detroit, which handles planning for Ford Division, Y&R Advertising, Detroit, has planning responsibilities for Lincoln Mercury. Ogilvy & Mather, New York, does Jaguar. W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., handles Mazda.

Every six weeks, the agencies' top media planners, their Ford clients at the various brands, Mr. Ropes and his staff meet with Ford Motor Media. This so-called steering committee is an open forum for ideas as well as discussions on the status of buys, cross-brand media opportunities and broad issues.


It's a window for developing big-picture media strategies, with ideas coming from any group member.

Mazda, with headquarters in Irvine, Calif., usually attends the teleconferencing sessions. O&M does the same from New York, but also sends planners from its Dearborn, Mich. office.

Agency planners meet regularly with Ford Motor Media. Mr. Prakken says he also talks to Ford Motor Media informally nearly every day. The agency planners work separately with their Ford clients, identifying such things as target market opportunities, specific media buys and budgets.


The buying agency gathers the specs from all the brands and tallies up the total number of pages and requested network shows "so they're in a better position to negotiate a better buy," says Mr. Prakken.

Ford Motor Media makes few changes to the proposed media plans, Mr. Prakken says.

"There weren't a lot of hiccups" or problems since media buying was consolidated, adds Mr. Prakken.

But a hiccup earlier this year arose between brands over placement in EW's Seinfeld issue, according to executives close to the situation. Mercury had to argue its case for prominent placement in the magazine for the launch of the newly-designed Cougar.

Mr. Mancini talked only generally about brand conflicts, saying "any organization is going to have issues with each other. If you can imagine all the jockeying these divisions do at one time...but they're not all in the market at the same time."

Since the buying shop was formed, Ford has stepped up its cross-divisional advertising with single media outlets. Ford and several of its brands will be the exclusive auto sponsors of CNN's 25-week "Cold War" series, starting next month. A single Ford brand couldn't handle the multi-component buy, which includes promotional support of the show and educational materials, says Mr. Ropes.

Has the consolidation brought an onslaught of media proposals?

"We are giving better direction to the types of proposals we want to see," explains Mr. Ropes, who adds media reps know they must deal with the agencies and their Ford clients. "We're able to move pretty quickly now, given the right opportunities."

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