For Ford, California's sweet

By Published on .

Irvine, Calif., is a new epicenter for Ford Motor Co.

In recent months, the North American arms of Ford's Volvo, Jaguar and Land Rover brands have relocated from the East Coast to Irvine. Mazda North American Operations, in which Ford has a controlling interest, was already in Irvine. The Detroit headquarters for the automaker's Lincoln and Mercury brands moved west from the nearby mother ship in Dearborn, Mich., in 1998.

The six brands spent $651 million dollars in measured media last year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. WPP Group's Ford Motor Media, a Detroit unit of J. Walter Thompson USA, handles media buying.

The gathering of the brands in Southern California has sparked speculation of creative account moves. That's mainly because WPP Group's Y&R Cos., Irvine, handles Lincoln, Mercury and Jaguar. And Ford, which has denied accounts will be moved, has all its luxury brands-Aston Martin, Land Rover, Lincoln, Jaguar and Volvo-under its Premier Automotive Group. That unit's North American arm is based in Irvine.

Ford did study whether to combine media buying and planning, similar to Chrysler Group's setup with Omnicom Group's PentaCom, Troy, Mich.

"Ford, overall as a group, took a really good look at media planning and buying," said Deborah Wahl, who oversees advertising as marketing communications manager of Lincoln and Mercury. "But we decided planning needs to absolutely stay at the creative agencies."

Ford Motor Media, a dedicated agency formed in 1997, will open a media-buying office in Irvine for the accounts, a JWT spokesman said. The agency will also be restructured to match the Irvine client structure and to deal with consolidated media conglomerates. Those plans haven't been finalized, he said.

Ford announced Oct. 5 that teams were formed to study collaboration of Jaguar, Aston Martin and Land Rover on non-brand-specific matters such as marketing, engineering and purchasing processes.

Volvo's agency, Havas Advertising's Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/ Euro RSCG, New York, won't open an office in Irvine. Bob Schmetterer, chairman-CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide, said the agency knew about the client's move west for a long time and doesn't always need to have an office near the client.

Omnicom Group's GSD&M, Austin, Texas, also won't open an Irvine office for Land Rover. The agency said it has an account director make extensive visits to the client. Last fall, Land Rover tapped Y&R for its $75 million global account outside the U.S. In February, Y&R won Jaguar's $125 million global account. Still, Land Rover is happy with GSD&M, a client spokesman said. "Our heads are together and we're working on new advertising."

Thomas Andersson, exec VP-marketing at Volvo, said "there are no plans to take what we're doing with Messner and move it to another agency. We have a longstanding relationship with Messner and we're very happy with Messner," with which it has a global contract.

Mr. Andersson said efficiencies can be gained for Ford in Irvine, mostly on back-end matters that are less visible than advertising. But he conceded, "Being here together now we'll see what makes sense in other areas."

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