WPP is facing another significant hurdle less than a week after the departure of CEO Martin Sorrell—one of its biggest clients, Ford, has launched a global creative review.
A spokesperson for GTB, the Detroit division formerly known as Global Team Blue that’s dedicated to handling Ford’s marketing business, said GTB and WPP had been “informed that its creative business with Ford is up for review.”
“WPP/GTB is the most capable, passionate, informed and dedicated partner to build Ford’s vision of the future,” the spokesperson said. “We will be enthusiastically responding to Ford’s request for review in the days ahead.”
“We value the talented and creative women and men at WPP,” a Ford spokesperson said. “They are trusted partners and curators of the Ford brand. We don’t share private business matters but can tell you we have offered WPP more specifics about our marketing redesign and operational fitness aspirations.”
The Ford spokesperson added that the company will “place some portions of our advertising business up for bid with other agencies, including WPP, beginning in the coming weeks. No decisions have been made.” It is not clear which parts of the business those include nor which other agencies have been invited to pitch.
The move had been widely expected amid a series of executive-level changes and challenges for Ford. In February, a company spokesperson told Adweek that the organization was “exploring options to improve the fitness of our marketing and advertising operations.”
In 2017, GTB parted with its CCO Toby Barlow, later firing more than 100 employees in Michigan, London and Shanghai, as Ford sales in the U.S. began to lag.
Ford’s head of global marketing, Stephen Odell, later retired to be replaced by former Lincoln division president Kumar Galhotra amid an executive shuffle organized by CEO Jim Hackett. Earlier this year, North American president Raj Nair also departed abruptly amid an investigation into “inappropriate behavior.”
Ford spent more than $1.2 billion on marketing in the U.S. alone last year, according to Kantar Media. Global estimates are generally around twice that number.