DMB&B hired Mr. Sherwood, 45, as managing director of the Detroit-area office in mid-March, succeeding Robin Smith, 57, who retired. Mr. Sherwood officially started May 1 after relocating from San Francisco, where he was a senior VP at Goldberg Moser O'Neill.
LEARNING ABOUT GM
Now, he must learn to live, eat and breathe the business challenges of General Motors Corp. The bulk of the $451 million in annual billings for DMB&B's Troy office comes from GM. The office handles its national and international Cadillac accounts, the North American Pontiac account, the GM Gold Card and a slew of public relations assignments.
GM's move to brand management has shaken up several agencies, including DMB&B. The auto marketer tapped Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, last year as creative consultant on the Pontiac Grand Am and GMC Jimmy. John Smale, formerly GM's non-executive chairman and now a director, has said he wouldn't rule out the possibility in the future that vehicle brands under the same division could move to separate, different agencies.
An executive familiar with GM's brand management said Mr. Sherwood "has the toughest job in all of advertising." Mr. Sherwood said he feels good about the GM business, noting, "I've come to an agency with a pretty healthy business and strong client relationships."
And although he said he doesn't expect to perform "major surgery" on the agency, he has already formulated a to-do list. At the top: improving creative. One way to do that, Mr. Sherwood said, is to bring in more non-GM business.
`WE'RE ALL CREATIVES'
In his first meeting with the agency's 275 staffers, he told them, "We are all members of the creative department."
"If you looked at our reel three years ago and compared it to today, you'd see a dramatic improvement," Mr. Sherwood said in an interview last week. "But it's not where it should be and can get better."
Mr. Sherwood wants to nurture teamwork and encourage his staff to tap the expertise of MacManus Group siblings.
A Chicago native, Mr. Sherwood ventured into advertising in 1977 from a high-school teaching and coaching job in Colorado. He worked at William Esty Co., Los Angeles, on the Datsun account before beginning the first of three tours of duty at Foote, Cone & Belding in `78. He also worked at Chiat/Day on Pizza Hut, and while at Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, he helped launch GM's Saturn.
Observers familiar with Mr. Sherwood's agency history predict he'll be in for culture shock in the more conservative Detroit atmo-sphere. Mr. Sherwood said the bigger shock is the change in climate.
Mostly, he's enjoying the freedom he's been given by his new employer: "There's not one thing I've wanted to do that anybody said, `Don't do it."'
Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo.