Ford looks beyond Hollywood picture

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Ford Motor Co. is in the midst of restructuring its Hollywood placement activities, once nearly all handled by WPP Group's Showcase International, Burbank, Calif.

"We're looking for another solution" that is broader than just Hollywood, said Jan Valentic, VP-global marketing, Ford. In the works is a partnership between Showcase and sibling Brand Entertainment Group, which has done a lot of Ford's recent TV deals. But the new venture "isn't quite soup yet," she said.

problematic past

Ford wants a single unit to look at bigger-picture, integrated deals that connect with its vehicle brands' images and each of their strategies, she said.

Ford's last huge Hollywood deal was problematic, according to one industry observer. CEO Jacques Nasser and Jim Schroer, VP-global marketing, left the automaker after initiating the global, $28-million link with MGM's James Bond movie "Die Another Day." Showcase worked on the deal, but other Ford executives then had to figure out how to spread the cost across its lineup. Halle Berry drove Ford Division's cool coral Thunderbird in the movie and in TV ads, and Ford sold the car as the limited-edition 007 Thunderbird. Ford's Jaguar pushed its XKR in the flick and in TV ads.

Ms. Valentic called the Bond deal "terrific" because it got a tremendous amount of press and helped Jaguar sales. "Our brands were pretty happy with what we got out of it," she said.

Early this year, Ford switched Showcase's reporting system from the automaker's corporate public affairs to global marketing. Also changed: Showcase no longer leases vehicles for Ford to Hollywood types, part of what two former Ford Motor executives called a strange and bizarre practice from a contract executed years ago. Those leases are now handled by dealers, which is traditional.

Showcase has handled Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Jaguar and Aston Martin for about a decade, and it also represented Jaguar in the U.S. But the WPP unit recently lost a bid to keep Jaguar and Aston Martin.

brit brand review

Ford's British brands-Jaguar, Land Rover and Aston Martin-recently held a review for their product-placement business. The pitch was unusual in that it included Interpublic Group of Cos.' Rogers & Cowan, Century City, Calif. Interpublic is strongly aligned with General Motors Corp. But GM uses independent Norm Marshall & Associates, Sun Valley. The other two contenders were Showcase and Jonathan Borehm Associates, the incumbent on Land Rover in the U.K.

The three British brands will consolidate in the U.S. at Rogers & Cowan. The automaker is in the final stages of negotiations on that deal. In Europe, Jonathan Borehm will pick up the other two brands.

In the U.S., Land Rover had used Davey Brown, Santa Monica, which also handles BMW. "We wanted one agency to work with the [British] brands," said Andrew Polsinelli, marketing communications manager at Land Rover North America.

Volvo Cars of North America, acquired by Ford in 1999, moved to Showcase from Norm Marshall shortly after its GM win. But 18 months ago Volvo moved its Hollywood placement account to independent International Promotions, North Hollywood.

Showcase executives didn't return calls. Richard Briggs, still listed on its Web site as senior managing director in North America, resigned about three months ago, said Arah Devaney, who runs the Burbank office. Ford has "redirected how they want everything handled," she said, declining to be specific. She referred calls to Brian Daly, whom she said was senior managing director on Ford's account in the Detroit area. He didn't return calls.

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