McCann on top as GM boss Joel Ewanick creates new agency Commonwealth for $1bn Chevrolet

General Motors marketing boss Joel Ewanick has taken a leaf out of the books of rivals Hyundai and Jaguar/Land Rover by giving his flagship Chevrolet account to a new agency, Commonwealth, formed from US incumbent Goodby Silverstein and McCann Worldgroup, which handles Chevy in other parts of the world.

Ewanick, who’s never one to avoid the radical solution, recently gave all of GM’s media business to Carat, with the proviso that the agency made little or no profit for the first two years of a five-year contract.

Now Joel has got the creative agency world dancing on its head with new agency Commonwealth. Commonwealth’s remuneration isn’t known (but we’ll find out). Prior to joining GM Ewanick worked for Hyundai which uses in-house agency Innocean. Tata-owned Jaguar/Land Rover has also started its own in-house agency Spark 44, led by ex-BMW marketing types.

But Commonwealth is a bit more radical than that, bringing together Omnicom-owned Goodby Silverstein and Interpublic’s McCann. But at least they’re trying to look happy about it, as this picture shows. No it’s not the last Sopranos birthday party but the all-powerful Commonwealth creative committee running Chevy: Jeff Goodby, Washington Olivetto, Prassoon Joshi and Linus Karlsson. As three of these come from McCann it’s pretty easy to see who’s running the show.

And there are loads more wrinkles besides. So here’s what GM says:

DETROIT – After a creative account review, Chevrolet has selected a newly formed company, Commonwealth, as its new global advertising agency, responsible for the development of creative campaigns across all platforms for Chevrolet global advertising.

Detroit-based Commonwealth is a first-of-its-kind 50-50 joint venture, combining San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, an Omnicom Group company, and New York-based McCann Erickson Worldwide, an Interpublic Group company.

In forming the joint venture, Commonwealth combines a wealth of creative talent, extensive global automotive experience and strategic business leadership that is unique in the industry. Chevrolet previously used 70 global agencies.

“This is the first time that two large marketing communications holding companies have come together to form a single company,” said GM Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick. “Commonwealth will be based right here in Detroit, and its only focus will be on strengthening and growing Chevrolet into an iconic global brand.”

This agency appointment, combined with the recent selection of Carat as GM’s agency for its media planning and buying operations, is part of the company’s ongoing effort to drive efficiencies in its marketing operations and more effectively build its brands around the world.

“These agency consolidations are expected to create about $2 billion in savings over the next five years, with a portion used to take advantage of key global marketing opportunities and strengthen the focus on our global Chevrolet brand, and a portion hitting the bottom line,” Ewanick said.

Commonwealth will be guided by an eight-person Global Advisory Board, which will oversee all creative initiatives and strategy for Chevrolet globally. Assignments will be handled through global hubs, which will operate in Detroit, Milan, Mumbai and Sao Paulo, and will ensure consistent global branding across the diversity of local markets.

The board includes four of the most-accomplished creative executives in the industry: Jeff Goodby, who will serve as Creative Chairman; Washington Olivetto, Linus Karlsson and Prasoon Joshi. The four creative leaders will work in collaboration on all major creative initiatives and resource allocations.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of the team to win Chevy’s global creative business, taking our relationship one step further,” said Goodby, co-chairman and creative director, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. “I feel fortunate to have been able to watch a group of the very best people at the top of their game during this process. Joel Ewanick has always been willing to push boundaries and try new concepts, and the fact that he was open to this approach is the perfect example of that. We’re excited to see what Commonwealth can mean for both Chevrolet and us.”

Until now, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners has led the Chevrolet creative account in the United States, the brand’s largest market, while McCann Worldwide has been Chevrolet’s agency of record in many global markets, including Mexico, Canada, Brazil, India, Japan, China and Latin America.

“We are delighted to be expanding our relationship with the dynamic Chevrolet brand and with General Motors,” said Nick Brien, chairman and CEO, McCann Worldgroup. “The Commonwealth solution is testament to McCann and Goodby’s unrelenting focus on creating marketing solutions that grow clients’ brands through creativity, digital velocity and performance.”

Commonwealth will immediately begin to transition responsibility for Chevrolet creative work in most global regions, with the exception of China, India and Uzbekistan, where these activities will continue to be managed by agencies specific to those countries.

So there you go. If Commonwealth works, how long will it be before the other big GM brands move into it? And how long will the embattled Jeff Goodby cling on?

It’s good news for McCann Worldgroup boss Nick Brien though. He may even confound our prediction that he’s on his bike.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.