Wieden & Kennedy wins Ford assignment as global review rolls on

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Credit: Harrer/Bloomberg

Ford has tapped Wieden & Kennedy New York for a short-term marketing assignment that comes amid its massive global agency review, the automaker confirmed today to Ad Age. The project is unrelated to the larger review, but it gets W&K on Ford's roster and could position the independent agency to gain more business. W&K is one of three shops pitching in the global review, along with WPP's Global Team Blue, the incumbent, and Omnicom's BBDO, according to people familiar with the matter.

"Ford is launching a U.S. brand campaign in mid October and we are working with Wieden & Kennedy as a creative partner with WPP to activate the campaign," said Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Flake. "This is consistent with how we have worked at times in the past decade with agency partners working alongside WPP."

She declined to share details on the campaign. W&K did not respond to a request for comment.

Ford launched the global creative review in April, putting one of WPP's most important accounts in peril amid the holding company's leadership change. Mark Read, WPP's interim chief operating officer, is the frontrunner to land the CEO job replacing Martin Sorrell and could be named as soon as next week, according to multiple reports.

Flake said the review "should wrap up in the fourth quarter," but declined to elaborate further on the process, including about which agencies are participating.

Ford has continuously worked with WPP agencies since 1943. Ford is the world's 13th largest ad spender, shoveling out $4.3 billion in 2017, including on its Lincoln brand, according to the Ad Age Datacenter. Lincoln is not part of the agency review.

Ford's review is expected to conclude sometime this fall. Flock Associates is the consultant on the review.

The agency evaluation comes as the automaker confronts tough business conditions. Moody's this week downgraded the Ford's credit rating, citing "challenges it will face implementing its 'Fitness Redesign' program." The so-called fitness initiative involves cutting spending and attempting to gain efficiencies across Ford's business, while changing its vehicle lineup to include fewer sedans, which face tough sales trends as consumers shift to trucks and SUVs.

W&K has not worked on a car account in the U.S. since splitting up with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in 2016, although it handles BMW China via its Shanghai office. Ford's China business is not part of Ford's global review, according to a Global Team Blue memo sent earlier this year. W&K has also done work for Honda via its London office.

W&K Portland was behind several widely praised campaigns for Fiat Chrysler, including the Emmy-winning Super Bowl ad "Born of Fire" for Chrysler that introduced the "Imported from Detroit" tagline.

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