J. WALTER THOMPSON Most Likely to Get Ford Credit Card Biz

If everything goes as planned, J. Walter Thompson/Chicago will likely be named to handle Ford Motor Co.’s upcoming co-branded credit card with Citibank, sources said late last week.
However one senior official warned late Friday that a final decision had not been made as to which JWT office would handle the business.
But insiders say that Thompson’s Chicago office has already been working on initial creative and that an announcement on the agency could come as early as Feb. 1. Ford is reportedly planning on being competitive with General Motors’ new credit card, which would put the ad assignment at close to $50 million.
Thompson executives would not comment on Friday. Ford to date has not released details of the card, but acknowledges that one has been in the works.
Ford officials have worked closely with both the Chicago and Detroit offices on the business so far and some have indicated that the assignment would likely go to the Chicago office because Ford wanted a separate agency for the card and liked the initial work out of the Chicago office.
Thompson’s Detroit office already handles the Ford division advertising account.
It could not be learned if JWT would also handle what would be an extensive direct mail assignment for the card. The GM card direct assignment is estimated to be $30 million-plus for the first year.
The account would be a boon for JWT’s Chicago office which was stung late last year when Kellogg moved its $35-million business from the Chicago office to New York. The office had held off on major layoffs as a result of the Kellogg switch in the hopes of gaining additional business.
More than one credit-card industry source said that Ford has set February 8 as the launch date for its co-branded card which is expected to be issued in both Visa and MasterCard versions. Meanwhile, GM will reportedly drop its 16.4% APR in an attempt to deflate the launch of the Ford Card. About 6 million of CitiBank’s 21 million credit-card accounts carry an interest rate of 15.9% or 13.9%. Ford is also expected to top GM’s offer of a capped 5% rebate on selected car brands by making a similar offer with no cap or extending the offer to even its most poular vehicles, like the Taurus and Explorer models.
Thompson had set up task forces composed of creative, account services and media personnel from various offices.
Ford apparently was taken off guard by the early success of the GM card, which signed up more than 1 million customers in less than two months. Ford had a dormant project to launch a major branded credit card, and rekindled the project when it saw the impact of the GM credit card. McCann-Erickson, N.Y. handles creative for the GM card, while The Atkinson Group, St. Louis, does the direct mail portion of the business.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)