JWT Looks for Lexus Flair From Cordner

Tom Cordner, the ar chitect behind Lexus’ marketing success in the U.S., said he’s moving on after 14 years because he wants to tackle worldwide campaigns.

“The opportunity to work on a global icon is the next step in my growth,” explained Cordner, who will join WPP Group’s JWT Detroit on Feb. 3 as ecd and worldwide creative director on Ford. He said he was also motivated by JWT’s new emphasis on upgrading creative as Ford Motor Co. battles slipping sales. (Its total U.S. sales were down 10 percent for 2002.)

While Cordner, ecd at Team One in El Segundo, Calif., is a fairly traditional “car guy” who believes the vehicles should be front and center in the work, he brings a flair to that ap proach. The 2001 Lexus spot “Parlez-vous désir?,” for example, was done entirely in French.

Cordner, who flew to Detroit last week to meet with the client, said he aims to bring a “fresh perspective” to the cat egory while keeping the cars in the spotlight. “I’m a person who loves the product,” he said, “and I be lieve [it] should play a major role in the advertising and be the hero of the spots.” He cited Volks wagen’s ads as doing that in a way that “gets people talking,” his goal for Ford.

Cordner has won many awards—five Lions, 12 Clios and six One Show Pencils among them—in his 30 years in advertising, but the Baltimore native is best known for the Lexus launch in 1990 and its “Relentless pursuit of perfection” campaign.

“People have always held Lexus up as one of the ways to do [car ads] right,” said John Stein, president of Band of Gypsies in Los Angeles, who has known Cordner since the two were at Chiat/Day 15 years ago. “Tom created that template, and he has to get credit for so much of the identity and success of that brand.”