Jeff Goodby Speaks About How Commonwealth Venture for Chevy Will Work

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Wait. Did we just propose combining the Yankees and the Red Sox alongside the Palestinians and Israelis, with Harry Potter and Voldemort as referees?

I hope not. In fact, I know not.

Jeff Goodby
Jeff Goodby
It's rare that an agency announcement is both reviled and praised for the wrong reasons, but such was the case when we put forward our new alignment with McCann to handle Chevrolet last week.

Let's start with reviled. So many did.

It was all about the money, they said. Alignments based on finance are bound to fail. General Motors was just trying to save money and GS&P and McCann had little choice but to go along.

But think about it. For three big, bottom line based companies (GM, Interpublic, and Omnicom), the fact that this is a good financial arrangement is actually a reason to believe it will all succeed. Yes, GM was able to realize big savings in the global realignment of its agencies and media. But believe me, we did okay as well.

In short, the money is actually a reason to make it work. Not a reason to have it fail.

Yes, but aren't these networks like red ants and black ants? Won't they simply revert to anatagonistic, Hatfield and McCoy behavior?

I haven't seen it. Interpublic CEO Michael Roth was like a helpful uncle during our pitch rehearsal, listening to everyone's presentations and making truly valuable suggestions. Omnicom's John Wren was beside him at the final meeting, smiling just as broadly and promising patience and understanding.

I have a theory about the suspicion. It's New York fuhgeddaboutit thinking applied to something that is now much bigger than New York. Sorry, but the forces that will make this work won't just come from New York this time. They'll come from Mumbai and Sao Paulo and Detroit and Milan.

So was this all forced upon us, then? Well, only insofar as GM CMO Joel Ewanick boldly believed Chevrolet was the one automotive brand that could truly have a global campaign. After all, Chevy had its best year in history in the U.S. last year and it is the fastest growing automotive brand in the world right now. Joel was ready to try anything that could make a global vision happen.

He told us he was looking at a number of different models. We talked about it a couple times and decided one terrific solution for both of us might be to continue forward with Chevy's two biggest, established agencies, but could they somehow work together? Joel pushed hard for us to make it so. It would be historic, he said, to solve this.

I told Joel that one thing in its favor would be the fact that I knew three of the global McCann creative directors really well. He loved this part, and rightly so. I have known Washington Oliveto, Prasoon Joshi, and Linus Karlsson for many years, both personally and by reputation. They are lovely, accomplished, and collaborative.

Again, at the creative level, there is no reason to undermine this effort. We will succeed or fail together, in front of the world.

Yes, but what is the real structure of this thing? I am asked.

It is not, as has been reported, a 280 person joint agency in Detroit. (That number probably comes from a head count of everyone based in Detroit working for Chevy at McCann, GS&P, and Fleishman. They are coordinated by Commonwealth, but they don't work for Commonwealth).

Nor will the name of the venture, Commonwealth--it was thought up in a Detroit coffee shop of the same name-supercede the Goodby Silverstein or McCann brands.

Instead, Commonwealth is simply the name of the joint board and support staff that will coordinate and align both agencies' efforts.

McCann will be McCann at all of its offices; Goodby Silverstein will remain Goodby Silverstein in Detroit and San Francisco. The Commonwealth board will assign, judge, and adjust the global effort in ways that make the most of all of our unique capabilities and talents.

It is important to note that the board will not seek other accounts beyond Chevy. This is not Enfatico-- a patchwork quilt of interests and people coming together for a single client, then hoping to get other business.

McCann and Goodby Silverstein will maintain our unique (and complementary) identities and capabilities. We will each continue forward, under our own names, with distinctly separate staffs, for both Chevrolet and other clients.

What people should really be asking is: Can a global campaign of this magnitude ever really work? So many others have failed. Is it Chevrolet's time to succeed?

I believe it is.

The entire world today devours much the same media. News, content, digital experiences, and advertising all fly around from culture to culture, transcending languages and boundaries more than ever before. More than even two years ago, in fact.

It is no longer about the stone we throw in the pond. It's about the ripples the stone makes.

This is the thing that gives me hope. It's a belief that the things that unite us, including Chevrolet, more than ever run deep.

We are about to find out.

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