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GM Won't Ditch Commonwealth, Joel Ewanick’s Brainchild

But questions persist after CMO's sudden departure
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General Motors remains committed to Commonwealth following Joel Ewanick’s abrupt departure, Adweek has learned. The four-month-old ad agency was the cost-cutting brainchild of Ewanick, GM’s marketing chief since 2010. In early March, he launched the shop to handle nearly the full breadth of Chevrolet’s account in an unusual joint venture that brought together creative rivals Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, and McCann Erickson Worldwide. In a seemingly risky move, Ewanick awarded Commonwealth work that was previously handled by 70 ad agencies globally.

One of the principals in the venture, Jeff Goodby, has been Ewanick’s friend and business associate for two decades. When asked if GM was still committed to Commonwealth, brand spokesperson Greg Martin immediately replied “Yes” via email.

Other questions certainly remain the day after General Motors and Ewanick parted ways. Martin told Automotive News yesterday that Ewanick “failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee.” And although anonymously sourced reports indicate that a botched European soccer sponsorship might have caused the split, the Detroit automotive brand hasn’t elaborated on Monday about the fallout.

“It can’t just be that soccer deal, can it?” asked an industry player while speaking with Adweek today.

Indeed, Ewanick’s tenure at GM hasn’t lacked controversy, as the exec has repeatedly made bold, cost-saving strokes. Most notably, he raised eyebrows by dropping GM out of 2012 Super Bowl ads and slashing the $10 million his company planned to spend on Facebook paid promotions this year. The latter move was revealed during the days before Facebook’s ill-fated IPO. And even in the creation of Commonwealth, he had the bottom line in mind, as Ewanick forecasted the in-house-styled agency would save GM $2 billion in billings over the next five years

The firebrand joined General Motors two years ago after a stint as marketing chief for Nissan North America. Prior to that, Ewanick had been vp, marketing of Hyundai Motor America. General Motors said its vp for U.S. sales and service, Alan Batey, will handle Ewanick’s global marketing duties in the interim.