JWT’s Cordner Resets Ford Lineup With 2 New CDs

First major hires part of effort to give creatives more responsibility

J. Walter Thompson Detroit co-president Tom Cordner is bringing in a pair of creatives he worked with at Team One to head one of three groups on the agency’s cornerstone Ford Motor Co. account.

The hires are Cordner’s first since he joined the office in February as ecd and worldwide cd on Ford. He took the additional title of co-president in May, sharing it with Sean Neall, global director on Ford.

Carl Warner and Ed Cole, who come from different offices of DDB, joined JWT last week as senior partners and cds. They will oversee creative on all Ford cars. Their first task will be to back the launch of Ford’s Freestyle FX crossover vehicle and the 500 family sedan, both set to go into production in 2004, Cordner said.

Cordner is reorganizing the 190-member creative department into structured teams, each handling one aspect of the Ford business. Work had been done on a more piecemeal basis. Now, with Warner and Cole on cars, cds Bradley Hensen and Paul Kirner will oversee Ford trucks, and Dan Weber and Todd Ruthven will head sport utility vehicles.

“It allows them to be thoroughly knowledgeable about cars or trucks or SUVs so that we’re not switching people all the time [and] no one really understands those brands,” Cordner said. “They’ll be the creative custodians of those brands.”

Ford’s sales were down 10 percent last year and about 2 percent through May. The automaker is in the midst of a five-year recovery plan to resuscitate sales and raise its image, putting pressure on JWT to elevate its creative. Cordner took over from Bruce Rooke, who left last August to become chief creative officer at Gerbig, Snell/Weisheimer & Associates in Columbus, Ohio.

Cordner, who let go five creatives in May, said he has no immediate plans to make more hires but continues to “do a lot of looking.”

“I should know this market, because there are a lot of really quality people in it,” he said.

His goal is to shift more responsibility to the cds, he said.

“I’m a creative director—I can tell you what is a good ad and what is a bad ad, but I’m not solving it for you,” he said. “I am not telling you how to do it. I may give you ideas every once a while, but I’m not going to solve it. You’re responsible for that. That’s what I pay you to do.”

Warner, an art director, spent the past 11 years at DDB, first in Chicago and most recently as a gcd in Dallas, where he also put in a stint as interim ecd. He has worked on Bud Light, American Airlines, Discover, Tabasco and Hershey’s. Prior to that, he spent three years with Cordner at Team One in El Segundo, Calif., where they worked together to launch Lexus.

Cole, a copywriter, has been an acd at DDB in Los Angeles for nearly seven years. Earlier, he spent six years at FCB Southern California in Irvine, Calif., as svp, cd on Mazda. His agency experience includes freelance assignments for Team One, BBDO in Los Angeles, Ogilvy & Mather in New York, TBWA\Chiat\Day on both coasts and Dailey & Associates in Los Angeles.

He has worked on brands such as Lexus, Acura, Sprint, Hewlett-Packard, Sizzler Restaurants, Coldwell Banker, American Express, Pizza Hut, Yamaha and Honda Motorcycles.

Although Warner and Cole have never worked as a creative team, they have both worked with Cordner, and he thinks their abilities and styles will be complementary. “What they’re bringing to the agency is a fresh perspective and enthusiasm,” he said. “I want to make this agency a fun place to be, and it just takes the right amount of leadership.”