Posted by: David Kiley on June 23, 2007
Ford Motor Co. is looking beyond its Ford brand agency of record JWT to handle the launch of the 2008 Focus this Fall. As previously reported in AB (June 13, “Ford’s Focus Challenge A Big One For An Ad Agency”, it sppeared that Ford wasn’t entertaining pitches beyond WPP, the holdng company for JWT.
Turns out one of the agencies pitching for the assignment is Arnold Worldwide, which recently won the Volvo account. Volvo is part of Ford Premier Auto Group.
In the car business, Arnold is primarily known for the Volkswagen business of the mid and late 1990s. It handled the business up to 2005, but the work for the last several years had been very uneven and mediocre. I think it was a combination of a very confused, politically divided and uncertain client, as well as a loss of key talent at the agency. But Arnold remains a creative and strategic force in the business. No question. The chemistry on Volkswagen simply deteriorated. It happens.
I had the rare privelege of watching one of Arnold’s pitches recently. [Choosing Who HYpes Hyundai, May 21, 2007].The agency pitched the Hyundai account at the same time it was pitching Volvo. Though it did not win Hyundai, I can attest that the agency put forth a very professional, interesting and at times innovative, effort for Hyundai. Had Goodby Silverstein + Partners and Kirshenbaum & Bond not done so well in the pitch, Arnold could have easily won it and done very well, I believe, with the assignment. Indeed, it was a testament to the depth of Arnold’s creative staff these days that they were able to put a first-class creative team on the Hyundai assignment, which had not been working on the Volvo pitch.
In any case, the important thing here is that Ford opened up the assignment for Focus beyond WPP. Not that JWT isn’t a good agency. Ogilvy & Mather is too. JWT’s work in the last 18 months has been a big improvement. It’s just that it is a healthy sign that Ford is opening up the opportunity for good ideas to a larger number of resources.
I am thinking that George Rogers, the head of Team Detroit, WPP’s combined Ford agency in Dearborn, MI, has let his troops know that the stakes are high for keeping Focus in the house. Rogers, a very able and savvy guy, used to run the Volkswagen account at Arnold.