Michelle Cervantez has driven far in the male-dominated auto industry. Starting her automotive career at Ford Motor Co. 15 years ago, she joined Mercedes-Benz USA
|Michelle Cervantez, vice president of marketing, Mercedes-Benz USA|
Ms. Cervantez says her short-term priorities at Mercedes-Benz are to look at the decision-making processes and to find spending efficiencies. She's already started working on preparations for the 2004 and 2005 models. She describes her strategic objectives for advertising this year as being "very focused and very targeted" and "getting value for our money."
Ms. Cervantez wasted little time getting to know the people at the marketer's ad agencies. In her first month on the job, she spent full days at Omnicom Group's Merkley Newman Harty and Footsteps, both New York. Merkley showed her "50 years of Mercedes advertising in 15 minutes," she quips about the reel.
When interviewed last month, she was readying "some halo brand communications" that will represent the first ads carrying her mark. She is busy preparing for what she called the key launch of the E Class wagon in October.
$100 million-plus ad budget
The 38-year-old is one of only five vice presidents at the DaimlerBenz AG unit. Ms. Cervantez has about 70 people in her group and oversees a $100 million-plus ad budget.
Armed with her master's in marketing and finance from the University of Notre Dame, her first job in the industry was in Ford's customer service unit. After completing Ford's marketing leadership program, she was a Mercury marketing communications specialist; Lincoln LS brand development manager; Ford Trustmark marketing manager; Jaguar vice president of marketing and Ford's global process and strategy manager. At Trustmark, she worked on Ford's "Global Anthem," a 2-minute TV commercial covering all its vehicle brands that ran at the same local time in dozens of nations around the world.
Respecting her co-workers
Ms. Cervantez says her greatest strength is her operating style -- the respect she has for her co-workers and agency staff. "I've tried to remain true to myself and operate in a positive way."
Her female colleagues are "more of a support group," she says. "We share war stories." She enjoys power-shopping sprees and plays golf when time allows. "There's usually beverages and cigars involved."