JWT Detroit Looks Beyond Ford

J. Walter Thompson is mapping out a plan to boost its dwindling portfolio of non-Ford accounts.

Jeff Ewald, general manager of the Detroit office, has taken over new business duties and said one thing the agency has to do is broaden its below-the-line offerings, which are especially essential in a soft economy. “In the past, I think we prioritized advertising as our main weapon,” he said.

Besides Ford, the agency counts White Castle and Domino’s, for which it does field marketing, as clients. In the past year, the agency lost the $90 million Kohl’s Department Stores and $60 million Goodyear accounts. About a dozen layoffs have resulted and several top executives have left in recent weeks. Both Steve Brown, who was president of the Detroit Diversified Group, heading JWT’s Detroit and Houston offices, and Mel Foster, who oversaw all non-Ford creative, have left the agency, Ewald said.

Roman Lesnau, previously new business director at the agency, has been transferred to the New York office to take the new post of senior partner and business development director at JWT North America.

Ewald has maintained his title while taking over new business responsibilities at the Detroit office, where he acknowledged the task has not been given enough attention. “It has to be a priority focus,” Ewald said

Rather than focus on certain categories, the agency will pursue specific brands, he said.

JWT last month completed an eight-month search for an executive to oversee Ford, a position formerly held by the agency’s CEO Peter Schweit-zer. Michael O’Malley, formerly the general manager at General Motors’ Cadillac division, will take over the task.

Replacing O’Malley at GM is Mark Laneve, who began his career at GM but has spent the past three years at Volvo Cars of North America—a Ford unit—as president and CEO and vice president of marketing.

Schweitzer said O’Malley’s inexperience on the agency side of the business is not a concern. He said he was attracted by his strong leadership and management skills as well as his ability to understand customers.