Forbes article reveals mayhem surrounding WPP Ford pitch

Forbes writer David Kiley has unleashed a rather large and fierce moggy among the pigeons at Ford and its WPP-owned agency GTB by predicting that Wieden+Kennedy (which has been picked to handle Ford’s US fall campaign) will win the creative task on a permanent basis while WPP/GTB (based in Detroit, below) will be left with the rest, “activation” as they now call it. He says Omnicom’s BBDO has been eliminated from the review (which the agency denies).

Which is much as we predicted last week.

In truth it would be amazing if Ford said it’s business as usual to WPP/GTB given the car giant’s lacklustre performance and marketing over the past few years. Surely it’s time for someone else to have a go. If WPP/GTB ends up with the other bits (dealers, sales promotion, media) then that will be a result for new CEO Mark Read although he doubtless won’t see it that way, having become personally involved in the long-running pitch process.

Ford spends a fair amount of its $4bn marketing budget outside the US although its efforts in other markets have been even worse than the US. WPP is in a better place to handle this work than W+K which has a much smaller international network and might not be interested anyway. W+K’s new COO, former London boss Neil Christie, will presumably be heavily involved in this thorny business.

Kiley’s piece is as interesting for his view of how it happened as much as what he says will happen. Ford emerges as a dysfunctional company with GTB, in some respects, not much better. He says a big bone of contention between GTB and Ford’s now marketing supremo Jim Farley was the agency’s decision to dispense with the services of CCO Toby Barlow, a 15-year veteran of the agency, last year.

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Barlow may have lost his job but it looks as though lots of other people could now be losing theirs.

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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.

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