Chief Creative Officer Toby Barlow Out at WPP’s Dedicated Ford Agency GTB After More Than a Decade

By Patrick Coffee 

Dedicated Ford agency GTB or Global Team Blue has parted ways with chief creative officer Toby Barlow, a 15 year veteran of the WPP organization.

Barlow had led the unit since 2006, when it was called JWT Team Detroit. For the moment, the Ford account has no creative leader in Motor City.

“I can confirm that [Barlow] has left the organization,” an agency spokesperson wrote yesterday, adding, “He has had an illustrious career with GTB for over ten years and we appreciate his many contributions.”


The spokesperson declined to elaborate on why WPP let Barlow go or discuss future plans regarding the leadership of the GTB organization, stating that the agency has “no personnel announcements to share at this time.”

In addition to Barlow, GTB also parted with global chief talent officer Linda Taylor late last year. She has been replaced by Alicia Shankland, who had been global chief human resources officer at Razorfish and now holds the same title at GTB.

According to several sources, Barlow’s final day at work was last Friday. GTB CEO Satish Korde sent an internal email to agency leaders yesterday morning confirming that he had been terminated and writing, “We appreciate his contributions and wish him luck.”

Barlow first joined the WPP family in early 2003, when he became a creative director at JWT working on such brands as HSBC and Kimberly Clark. According to his bio, he moved up within the JWT New York organization before getting an opportunity to work on a documentary series called Bold Moves: The Future of Ford, which tracked the auto giant’s 2006 reinvention as part of what North American president Mark Fields called “a picture of a company that is committed to revitalization through our people, products, improved quality and costs, and a laser-sharp focus on the customer.”

The creative director then moved to The Motor City to become co-president of Team Detroit, the organization formed when JWT, Y&R, Wunderman, Ogilvy and GroupM came together in late 2006 to “enable the automaker access to WPP’s very best global automotive marketing talent in a seamless fashion.” Last May, Team Detroit joined with Blue Hive and Retail First to become GTB.

Beyond his work on the Ford account, Barlow is a novelist and an advocate for the city of Detroit who is frequently involved in charity projects like Write a House, an effort to renovate dilapidated homes for writers settling in the area that earned coverage in The New York Times and other publications.

In a 2014 interview with Michigan’s MLive, he advocated for hiring local agencies: “If I had an independent business and I was hiring an agency I would definitely look at a Team Detroit or a Lowe Campbell Ewald or a Doner or somebody locally. … I believe personal interaction is a huge part in the success of a brand.”

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