CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- There is no lack of agency models in adland, but few attract more criticism than the kind that are built to service a single client. For good reason too -- most don't work.
But if you ask George Rogers, president-CEO of the WPP-owned agency, he'll say the reason Team Detroit -- formed in late 2006 by melding five WPP shops that worked with Ford -- is successful is because it enjoys an ultra-close relationship with its biggest client while still managing not to alienate others. "For many prospects, Ford ... has proven only to be a strength," he said. "Its profound desire for Team Detroit to experiment and constantly innovate makes Ford a brilliant anchor client."
Considering Team Detroit's growing portfolio of non-auto clients, it's not hard to buy that theory. The shop reported a 50% hike in revenue in the past two years and in September 2010 recorded its largest non-automotive win to date, Sports Authority, on the heels of utility clothier Carhartt earlier in 2010.
Team Detroit also had a strong hand in the Mazda win, which WPP scored in June. (Ford owns a minority stake in Mazda, and the two often share manufacturing facilities.) Taking a cue from Ford, Mazda created its own dedicated team under WPP, headquartered in Southern California and helmed by former JWT New York Chief Creative Officer Harvey Marco.
In many ways, the agency has been a beacon in the otherwise gloomy Detroit?ad market, which in its heyday controlled billions in ad dollars that all but floated away in the recession when two of the three automakers filed for bankruptcy, and, in the wake, shifted their ad accounts to new agencies.
"Not only did we endure, we prevailed," said Toby Barlow, exec VP and chief creative officer at Team Detroit. "We are a positive story in a region that hasn't really seen that many."
Team Detroit ended 2010 with nearly 1,250 employees -- most of them in the Dearborn, Mich., headquarters, with the rest sprinkled throughout 23 U.S. services offices for Ford. Headcount was up about 8% in 2010, and revenue was up 11% from 2009; WPP is hiring 120 Irvine, Calif.-based employees for Team Mazda. Mr. Rogers attributes those lifts to new accounts as well as more work from existing clients Ford, Scotts, Johnson Controls and Warrior Sports. The agency also had no account losses during the year.