Mark LaNeve Called Upon to Help Stem Lincoln Sales Slide

Team Detroit Exec Named President of Hudson Rouge, Luxury Auto Brand's Agency

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Mark LaNeve
Mark LaNeve

Team Detroit exec Mark LaNeve has been called upon to take over as president of the Lincoln brand's ad agency, Hudson Rouge, according Automotive News. The move comes as the luxury brand is seeing a slide in sales.

The 54-year old Mr. LaNeve replaces former auto consultant Cameron McNaughton, who was named president when New York-based Hudson Rouge launched in December 2011. In a memo to dealers, Matt VanDyke, global director for the Lincoln brand, said Mr. McNaughton will be leaving the agency in May to "pursue other opportunities."

Mr. LaNeve will be doing his new job from Detroit--visiting Hudson Rouge regularly--and will keep his other title as chief operating officer of Team Detroit, the Ford brand's advertising agency. Both Team Detroit and Hudson Rouge are owned by WPP.

Prior to landing at WPP last year, Mr. LaNeve was a marketer at Allstate and General Motors. He'll need to use his experience to help right the ship, as he is assuming control of the agency as the luxury Lincoln brand is going through a difficult rebirth. The 2013 MKZ sedan was heralded as the first car in that rebirth, but its launch has been hobbled by production delays and quality glitches. The brand's U.S. sales have slipped seven consecutive months in an overall light-vehicle market that continues to expand.

The model for Hudson Rouge, a dedicated agency set up to serve the needs of just a single client, mimics the way that Team Detroit was formed. However, Team Detroit has now evolved to handle some clients outside of the auto sector.

"Mark brings a tremendous amount of equity and understanding of the luxury space," a Ford spokesman said. "When you look at Mark's credentials, having redone Cadillac and Volvo, it makes a lot of sense."

Earlier this year, Lincoln launched a big advertising push for the MKZ that included two 30-second spots on the Super Bowl. That included one ad featuring late night host Jimmy Fallon and another, called "Phoenix," which took bits and pieces from a long-running 60-second ad, with the addition of an MKZ bursting from an old Lincoln Town Car.

While the spots were intended to help elevate consideration of Lincoln cars, at the time, dealers did not have any cars to sell. Now that more cars are flowing into dealerships, Lincoln is ramping up its advertising again this month. There are now around 4,000 MKZs at dealerships, though there are some geographical areas with more cars than others.

Mr. LaNeve, who is widely regarded as a "dealer guy," started his marketing career at GM and was credited with reviving the Cadillac brand. After rising to the post of brand manager for the Pontiac Bonneville in 1995, LaNeve left GM in 1997 to become VP-marketing and later CEO of Volvo Cars of North America, then owned by Ford.

In 2001 he returned to GM as general manager of Cadillac. In 2004, he became GM's North America VP-of sales, service and marketing. A few months after GM declared bankruptcy in 2009, he left to become chief marketing officer for Allstate Corp. in Northbrook, Ill. There he oversaw creation of the insurance company's "Mayhem" advertising campaign.

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