Winds of change

A little under a year ago I landed an amazing job as Senior PR Writer on the Meropa/Ford account. Over the past few days, my GTB colleagues and I have been coming to terms with news of “the biggest account move in advertising history”, namely Ford’s announcement of BBDO as its new lead creative agency, effective 1 November 2018.

BBDO is part of Omnicon, which is a rival group to WPP. WPP, which created GTB, is the biggest advertising conglomerate globally, and has been Ford’s lead creative agency since 1943 (JWT was acquired by WPP in 1987). Up until now, Ford has always been WPP’s flagship client, but this move signals the end of that 75-year creative partnership.

Although Ford is the second biggest automaker and the seventh largest advertiser in the USA, the company is under pressure to cut costs as profits shrink and its share price stagnates near a decade low. Ford’s current adspend is $4.1-billion globally. The move to BBDO will yield $150-million in cost savings for Ford.

It’s not only marketing that is affected. Over the next four years, Ford plans to cut $25.5-billion in cumulative costs across marketing, engineering, manufacturing, and other areas.

Fortunately WPP has retained the most profitable and faster growing parts of the business, and will continue with Ford’s media planning and buying, shopper and performance marketing, website development, CRM, and PR (which is where our Meropa/Ford team fits in).

WPP will continue with some of Ford’s advertising work in the US, Ford’s advertising operations in China, and Ford’s luxury vehicle brand Lincoln.

And Ford says it will be creating more than 100 in-house marketing positions globally.

So yeah, while the news did come as a bit of a shock to all of us, I think (pray) most of our jobs here in the GTB Johannesburg office will be safe.