WPP Builds Cross-Agency Advertising Unit for Ford

Shared-Services Offering Will Pool Media, CRM, PR

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- WPP today took the wraps off a restructuring plan that takes resources from almost all its major agencies and forges them into what amounts to a one-stop shop, Team Ford, that will be based in Dearborn, the automaker's home town.

Photo: AP
Mark Fields, president of the Americas for Ford, said the purpose of the move was to have 'all of our agency partners in one building.'
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The shops in question are JWT and sibling Ford Motor Media, both Detroit; Ogilvy & Mather, Dearborn; plus Young & Rubicam Brands, which includes Y&R, Wunderman, Mediaedge:cia and MindShare, all Dearborn.

Agency brands retained
Advertising Age had reported plans for the shops to be located in two Dearborn buildings, but this restructuring goes further, by creating a number of new units for Ford's needs: Shared Media Services, Brand Experience Services and Shared Administrative Services.

A touch confusingly, the employees will still technically be employed by their current agencies, but they will report up through the chiefs of the new units. For example, there will be one chief at Brand Experience Services who will oversee all customer relationship marketing work, but those who report into that person will include JWT staffers on Ford brands or Y&R staffers on the Lincoln and Mercury brands.

Not just cost-saving
Even though the automaker struggled in the North American market in 2005 -- moving from a first-quarter pre-tax profit of $663 million to a pre-tax loss in the next two periods of more than $2 billion -- WPP insisted that the restructuring is not designed solely to cut spending.

"Saving money wasn't the starting point" when discussions started roughly two years ago, said Satesh Korde, president of WPP Team Ford. "We would have done it even if Ford was doing great." Instead, he claimed, the move is aimed at "sharing best practices."

Buying power plus
It also seems to be aimed at leveraging the automaker's buying power, by essentially combining its media agency resources. Mark Fields, president of the Americas for Ford, said his objective is to leverage overall buys. "A laser-like focus on our customers and brands is at the heart of our plan to put Ford on offense," he said. "Having all of our agency partners in one building will provide the collaboration we need to help make that happen."

WPP's Shared Media Services unit will have co-chiefs: Jack Valente, managing partner-general manager of Mediaedge:cia, Detroit, and Andy Prakken, now executive director-communications services at JWT overseeing Ford Motor Media.

Direct, CRM and PR
The Brand Experience Services unit will pool resources of the agencies for CRM, direct, brand experiences, lifestyle public relations and data. Tim Copacia, managing director of Wunderman, will lead that group, although his exact title hasn't been determined.

The Shared Administrative Services will pool the shops' finance, quality, human resources, facilities and IT departments. When asked whether staff cuts are coming, Team Ford boss Mr. Korde said there would be some losses and some gains.

Mr. Korde declined to discuss specifics about WPP's potential savings, potential layoffs or cost of the moves. He was joined by a group of WPP executives from the shops who told the press at a luncheon, immediately before a session with their 1,200 employees.

Don Topping, exec VP-director, strategy and integrated solutions at WPP on Ford, said that as the holding company creates savings for Ford, it will be reflected in its fees. Production and Studio Services will give WPP "more access to bigger and better equipment we couldn't have before and more jobs can be done in-house," said Paul Venn, managing partner of Y&R.

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