Ogilvy alum Wilberding turns to brand identity

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Mike Wilberding, a 20-year ad agency veteran in Detroit, is wearing a new hat.

The 46-year-old senior partner and general manager of Ogilvy & Mather's Dearborn, Mich., office, recently left the agency world. He's joined Ford & Earl Associates, Troy, in the new post of exec VP-director of brand and identity consulting. More than half of Ford & Earl's revenue comes from interior architectural design, but the company also designs logos, exhibits and signage.

"The future is about having a strong sense of identity, and that doesn't happen through advertising alone," said Mr. Wilberding. "I've come to believe over the last two years this holistic, identity-driven management and marketing approach is the future."

Ford & Earl, founded in 1964 by a merger, was known for product design. That's evolved since then. The private company posted revenue of $5.1 million in 1998, when it had 53 staffers, according to sibling publication Crain's Detroit Business 1999 "Book of Lists" in December.

Tom Ernst, chairman-CEO of Ford & Earl, said his company's specialty is "development of strong identity imagery and its application to every visual medium important to conveying our client's overall brand identity." Mr. Wilberding will boost the company's strengths, Mr. Ernst added.


John Bulcroft, a former car advertising executive who's now a strategic planning consultant, said the move is a good one for the Detroit executive.

"Branding is a hot button for a lot of people these days." It's such a hot button that "major ad agencies are jumping on board," adding branding services as an additional revenue stream, Mr. Bulcroft said. Ford & Earl is "doing the same thing the ad agencies are doing" by adding the new service, he said.

Mr. Wilberding said he'll target existing clients of Ford & Earl for his new consulting services as well as new customers.

The company says current or recent clients include Porsche Cars North America, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Westin Hotels & Resorts and Quaker Oats Co.

Mr. Wilberding, born in Grosse Point, Mich., and a graduate of Michigan State University, started in advertising at the age of 26 as an account exec at Young & Rubicam, Detroit. He moved to McCann-Erickson Worldwide's local office at the age of 29, and by 32 was one of the agency's youngest senior VPs. McCann sent him to Brazil, where he oversaw the General Motors Corp. and McDonald's Corp. accounts. He joined Ogilvy eight years ago.

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