In a pitch-perfect Friday afternoon dump, Ford confirmed today that it has finally launched a global creative review.
The Wall Street Journal first broke the news based on an internal memo that Satish Korde, CEO of WPP’s dedicated unit GTB, sent to all staff today.
“WPP will have an opportunity to compete with other firms to retain these portions of the business, and will remain Ford’s agency of record in some other key areas,” he wrote. Those latter key areas include Ford China, U.S. dealerships and “some other functions.”
That said, GTB promised that it would be “enthusiastically responding” to the RFP when it actually goes out in the coming days.
This was not a particularly surprising development. Ford told us in February that it was “exploring options” with WPP amid an executive reshuffling, so it was really a “not if but when” sort of thing. You may also recall that GTB fired CCO Toby Barlow last year and later downsized by approximately 150 heads in Dearborn. (He bounced back, though!)
So we have to ask seriously: who will be pitching Ford?
It’s a massive account with all sorts of moving parts around the world, and it has been with WPP for a whopping 75 years since officially going to JWT back in 1943. The world’s oldest agency had previously worked on promos for the Model fucking T. (Yes, that’s true, thank you AdAge).
Given the number of employees and separate offices required, it would seem almost certain that this will be a holding group fight: Omnicom vs. WPP vs. Publicis vs. Dentsu. We have reason to believe IPG won’t be involved, which makes sense, because this pitch is gonna cost a lot of money.
Also, every single holding company has an auto client on its roster somewhere, so we hope Ford isn’t too picky about agencies working with its competitors. And given the drop in auto sales around the world, there will be cost cuts everywhere. So inevitably, the winner is either going to be a skeletal GTB or some other company’s version of this dedicated model, like We Are UnlimitedFord or The Ford Neighborhood.
On the other hand, the account might just be big enough to inspire a holding company to split with a smaller auto brand. Compare BMW’s annual marketing spend in the U.S. ($275 million) to Ford’s ($1.2 billion). HUGE difference there.
We leave you with one question…