J. Walter Thompson last week was awarded the $25 million account of the New England Ford Dealers Association over Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, according to Ford dealer Paul Bertoli.
JWT, which now handles 52 of the 63 Ford dealer associations across the country, is scheduled to pitch the $10-15 million Greater Michigan Ford dealers account this week and the $10 million account of the Washington, D.C., group in early February, according to JWT president Peter Schweitzer.
In the Michigan pitch, JWT will compete against St. John & Partners and HMS Partners, both in Miami. Hill, Holliday, originally set to contend for that account, planned to withdraw after finishing second to JWT in the New England pitch, according to agency chairman Jack Connors.
Ingalls Advertising in Boston, HMS Partners in Miami and Earle Palmer Brown in Philadelphia also made presentations to the review committee of the New England Ford Dealers. Only JWT in Detroit and Hill, Holliday in Boston, however, were invited back last Thursday to present to the 18-member board of directors.
With four board members absent, the final vote was split seven to seven. Bertoli, who chairs both the board and the review committee, said he cast the deciding vote for JWT even though he was concerned throughout the review process about the shop's relationship to "the factory."
"By the end," Bertoli said, "they had convinced me that the agency division [devoted to servicing Ford dealers] works for the dealer and not for the factory."
Some of Hill, Holliday's presentation addressed its ability to service both the New England Ford Dealers and AutoNation USA, a fast-growing chain of used-car superstores based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which Bertoli viewed as a conflict.
"It was a question and a concern throughout," he said of AutoNation. "Plus, Hill, Holliday hasn't had an automotive account in awhile."