It is a fitting moniker for the entity brainstormed in part by
Mr. Garcia, president of Interpublic's McCann Midwest, Detroit; Mr.
Grantham, managing director of Omnicom's Goodby Silverstein
& Partners' Detroit office; and Mr. Ewanick, global CMO of
Both agencies had serious skin in the game: Mr. Ewanick for
months had been waving the maestro's baton in a protracted,
post-bankruptcy push to wring $2 billion over five years from
marketing costs at Chevy. The automaker's account had been spread
among 70 agencies around the globe, but the shops that stood to
lose most if the estimated $3 billion GM account decamped were
Goodby, which led
the business in the U.S., and McCann, which reigned over it in
Mexico, Canada, Brazil, India, Japan, China and Latin America,
among other markets.
Interestingly, Cheil, which was
invited to participate in the pitch, is keeping the business in
Korea, despite the creation of Commonwealth.
Chevy parent GM is said to be McCann's biggest client and a huge
revenue generator for Interpublic. UBS analyst John Janedis
estimated the incremental revenue from Chevy marketing duties in
additional geographies to be at least $30 million -- a surprising
figure given GM's focus on cutting costs. The value of Chevy's
revenue and its client rank at Omnicom could not be determined.
The Commonwealth arrangement was hailed by the partners last
week as a "historic" collaboration. "I said, "Listen, the agency
thing, the network thing, that 's gonna be checked at the door,'"
said Goodby principal Jeff Goodby. McCann Worldgroup Chairman-CEO
Nick Brien likened it to tearing down a wall.
But many in the larger agency community were less impressed.
Some see it as a defensive move by agencies forced to give cost
concessions to a major client.
According to one insider, GM won't pay Commonwealth directly,
but will pay the holding companies/agencies that are part of the
venture, making it more of a management structure than a true new
entity. Neither GM nor the holding companies would discuss
Commonwealth will initially consist of 280 creative people at an
office on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. The office will link
to the "hubs and spokes" around the world where its board of eight
people (including McCann creatives Linus
Karlsson, Prasoon Joshi and Washington Olivetto, along with Mr.
Goodby) reside. Mr. Goodby will be in charge.
"There's no doubt that I personally like Jeff Goodby and think
he's one of the finest advertising people of our time," Mr. Ewanick
said in a telephone interview last week. "His personality is
perfect to lead this all-star team."
That said, Mr. Ewanick made it known that he wouldn't hesitate
to shuffle the pieces or lose some of them going forward. "If we
have to make a change, we'll make a change, even after doing this,"
he said. "As much as I like some of the folks at both agencies, I
have to do what's right for the company."
Mr. Ewanick started the review process last April -- months
before Commonwealth was formally announced -- and began looking at
presentations from both McCann and Goodby. An RFP was sent out in
September. "We told [the two agencies], "You can pitch separately
or together, we'll support either way.' They decided on their own
to come together as a team."
Getting the details down in December "was a rollercoaster ride,"
Mr. Ewanick said. "Some of the issues were ours, how Chevy and GM
would handle certain budgets."
Or, as one person familiar with the deal said, "GM negotiated
fiercely on costs and margins. You don't save $2 billion without
people getting haircuts all around."
Mr. Ewanick said some of the $2 billion in savings will come
from trimming production expenses worldwide.
"The 50-50 split was intentional; no one got an override," said
Mr. Grantham. "The revenues are driven by where the people come
from, and that is driven by the things that need to be done by
One of the first tasks for the partnership is to decide whether
to continue the "Chevy Runs Deep" theme launched by Goodby in 2009.
"Do we need "Chevy Runs Deep'?" asked Mr. Ewanick. "Do we need any
theme? We'll make a decision this summer."
Along Madison Avenue, there was substantial chatter about
whether a cooperative venture among competitors will succeed. "It's
great to say it's going to be a 50/50 operation, but whenever
there's a merger of equals, it rarely pans out," said a well-placed
observer. "Here, you've got two organizations that are hugely
competitive and who really revile each other."
Jeremy Anwyl, vice chairman of Edmunds.com, was more
circumspect. The melding was "tricky, because it could be a recipe
for politics and undermining," he said. "That said, the agencies
are aligned in at least one way: They're both driven by the profit
motive. Maybe that common ground will generate a great
Commonwealth even came up for discussion on stage at the 4A's
Transformation Conference in Los Angeles when the news broke last
Tuesday. The New York Times' Stuart Elliott, moderating a panel on
sustainability, was pressing Coca-Cola's Bea
Perez on why her company hadn't partnered with archival Pepsi to invent more sustainable
"I mean, if Interpublic and Omnicom can come together for the
Chevy account, why can't Coke and Pepsi get together to come up
with a plant bottle?" he asked. Before Ms. Perez could answer, Kate
Robertson, group chairman of Euro RSCG, jumped in with a quip that
earned plenty of audience laughs: "Don't kid yourself, Stuart, that
's not really happening."
"I know all the people who are talking smack," Mr. Ewanick said.
"The competitors all ... wish [failure] upon [Commonwealth]. I've
heard it already from some pretty senior folks at other holding
companies. ... There's a lot of envy here."
Regarding the name selection, Mr. Grantham said, "Commonwealth
expressed the global nature; the idea suggested unity." As for the
coffee shop, it will remain a business venue. "Get the Commonwealth
latte," he suggested. "I don't know what they put in it, but it's