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Ford Motor Co. is considering the consolidation of its media buying at J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, a move that would give the agency about $325 million in Ford billings on top of the nearly $600 million it currently handles.

The move-opposed by Lincoln-Mercury agency Young & Rubicam, as well as some executives at that Ford division-is being hotly debated within the automaker. Lincoln-Mercury spent $245 million on media advertising in 1995.


The media consolidation would probably also include Ford units Jaguar Cars and Hertz Corp. JWT's sister WPP Group shop, Ogilvy & Mather, New York, handles the $30 million Jaguar account. Hertz, which spent $48 million on ads last year, uses Wells Rich Greene BDDP, New York.

Ford-controlled Mazda Motor of America, now handled by Foote, Cone & Belding, Santa Ana, Calif., could also eventually be folded in; JWT is currently studying Mazda's overall U.S. marketing efforts, the latest indication WPP is moving to take control of Mazda's $600 million global account (see story above).

Still, uncertain is whether media planning would also move in any such consolidation.

But Y&R's fierce opposition to the consolidation could kill the plan.

"Ford is very careful and wouldn't do it if thel felt it would negatively impact their relationship with their agencies," said one executive familiar with the proposal.

Added another, "I think [Robert] Rewey is for the idea if it can be worked out. But it's not going to happen tomorrow."

Mr. Rewey, Ford group VP-marketing and sales, did not return phone calls. Ford and Lincoln mercury divisions declined comment as did two agencies.

If Ford does decide it wants to consolidate media, Y&R would surely counter with its own proposal, insiders at the agency say.

The consolidation would likely be in the form of a dedicated unit, similar to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mediaworks unit for General Motors Corp. and BBDO Worldwide's Pentacom for Chrysler Corp.

Media units dedicated to one client are becoming more prevalent, but some media executives question their effectiveness.

"It gives the client more control, but it's also isolating," said one. "For example, the Pentacom and Mediaworks people know the auto price for things, but unless they speak to others at their agencies, which I doubt they do, they don't get the bigger picture."

One reason big ad spenders are attracted to dedicated units is they usually pay little or no comissions to the units for media. Agencies get the prestige of having the unit and the additional billings, which can help in new-business pitches.

One executive familiar with Ford said the idea of consolidating the company's media originated a few years ago with John Vanderzee, when he was Ford Division advertising director. Ironically, Mr. Vanderzee is now chairman of Y&R.

JWT handles the lion's share of Ford's media budget, measured at $899 million last year. The agency already ranks among the top five overall in network, spot and syndicated TV, radio and magazine billings.

On the Mazda front, Hawk media, San Francisco, recently completed a U.S. media-buying evaluation for the auto marketer.

Welton Mansfield, exec VP-managing director, FCB said results "came out extraordinarily psoitive" for FCB, and he expressed confidence his agency will keep the media account.

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