Now WPP CEO Read has to pick up the Ford review pieces

WPP is putting a brave face on its loss of the Ford creative account, telling the world it’s been appointed as Ford’s “activation” agency. This includes dealer advertising (so-called Tier Two), PR, production, Ford work with a partner in China and media.

Substantial no doubt – and the company has taken issue, rightly perhaps, with our description of these as “bits and bobs” – but losing creative to Omnicom’s BBDO with Wieden+Kennedy also on the creative roster as “innovation partner,” is a big blow to WPP CEO Mark Read (below) all the same, although hardly unexpected. WPP’s share price barely stuttered in London this morning but it’s bouncing along the bottom anyway.

GTB CEO Satish Korde struck an upbeat note in a memo to all staff (GTB is the WPP unit that handles Ford) although he had to admit that “WPP is assessing the impact and implications of this decision, which cannot be fully determined until more detail is known.” GTB is a biggish agency in its own right.

So it looks as though there’ll be something for some of them to do. In this era of digital transformation activation can mean support activity or where most of the money goes.

On the face of it the review by Flock Associates seems to have given Ford the best of most worlds. WPP, one has to assume, is good at activation; BBDO is a big and capable creative network while Wieden+Kennedy is the US’s leading independent creative agency with a strong recent track record for big clients including P&G, Bud Light and KFC. W+K is handling Ford’s fall TV campaign and if that’s a winner it could be a problem for BBDO.

WPP CEO Mark Read and his US colleagues have to decide if they’re happy to hang in with Ford – in the hope, maybe, of winning it all back one day – or make discreet approaches to other car companies. In the medium term he has to work out how to replace big chunks of revenue from Ford and also GSK which has moved its global media from WPP to Publicis.

WPP is having its annual confab of agency leaders in New York this week. There’ll be plenty to discuss.

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