Ford ads take global approach

Creative teams get boost to promote products worldwide
Stuart Elliott / New York Times
The senior creative executive at Team Detroit, the consortium of WPP units that works on the Ford Motor account in North America, is getting a new role with a worldwide focus.

Toby Barlow, executive vice president and chief creative officer at Team Detroit, is assuming the new responsibilities of chief creative officer at Global Team Ford. He will continue to work alongside George S. Rogers, who is president and chief executive at Team Detroit, as well as the Ford Motor global client leader for WPP.

Barlow “will be in charge of the Ford work globally,” Rogers said, “and be the guy to work with the creative teams and sign off on all the global launches” of new Ford Motor products.

The new role for Barlow, 44, comes as WPP makes plans to form regional hubs next year modeled after Team Detroit, which will handle Ford campaigns in other major markets. The change also comes as Ford Motor — one of the world’s biggest advertisers, with a budget estimated at $4 billion a year — seeks to build on its recent momentum, achieved despite the global economic slump.

Dearborn-based Team Detroit was opened in 2006 by bringing together five WPP agencies that worked for Ford in Canada, Mexico and the United States: JWT, Mindshare, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Wunderman and Y&R.

The intent was to have a single management structure with a single profit and loss, increasing the effectiveness of WPP’s efforts for Ford.

Last spring, the three WPP agencies that handled Ford in Europe — Mindshare, Ogilvy and Wunderman — formed an agency named Blue Hive that is styled after Team Detroit. The plans for 2011 call for a hub for the Asia-Pacific region, to be based in Shanghai, and a hub for Latin America.

Team Detroit was born because WPP decided that “we had to start doing things in a transformative way,” Rogers said, to help Ford after a spate of difficulties in competing against other large automakers.

“We’d been steeped in this world of bad karma for four or five years,” Rogers recalled. “We had to change the narrative.”

Under Barlow’s purview, Team Detroit has created successful campaigns for the Ford division in the United States that carry the theme “Drive one,” introduced models like the Fiesta and Fusion, and promoted local Ford dealers with Mike Rowe, star of the reality series “Dirty Jobs,” appearing in ads as a low-key pitchman.

Team Detroit has also created popular campaigns for Ford trucks that feature the actor Denis Leary.

For Ford’s Lincoln division, Team Detroit created a well-received campaign with actor John Slattery, who plays the adman Roger Sterling on the series “Mad Men.”

Last month, Advertising Age named Ford marketer of the year for 2010, citing the company’s sales comeback under James D. Farley, group vice president for global marketing, sales and service.

“Any agency is only as good as the client lets them be,” Barlow said. “We’re fortunate with Jim Farley to be pushed and challenged. It’s a good kind of challenge.”

Barlow arrived in Detroit in 2006 after serving as executive creative director at the JWT New York office, where his duties included working on the Ford account.

“I think I was pretty skeptical” of the Team Detroit concept at first, Barlow said. “You’d walk in a room and say, ‘He’s with YR he’s with Ogilvy,’ and you’re all sitting together. It was weird.”

As results were achieved, Barlow said, it became clear that “the whole would be equal to more than the sum of the parts.”

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