Do McCann And Goodby Have a Future With General Motors?


With General Motors’ chief global marketing officer Joel Ewanick ousted from the company— perhaps due to a questionable sponsorship deal with Manchester United— it’s time to ask where that leaves McCann Erickson and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the car company’s two big ad creation agencies.

Four months ago, Ewanick helmed an unusual venture for GM: After holding an agency review for Chevrolet, he married the rival Omnicom and Interpublic agencies into a new joint agency called Commonwealth. Chevy had previously used as many as 70 agencies around the world to do its advertising, The consolidation was a part of GM’s recent marketing effort to save $2 billion globally over the next five years. GM spends up to $5 billion a year on markting globally.

But now that Ewanick has been ousted for “[failing] to meet the expectations the company has of an employee,” a GM spokesman told Auto Week, the future is uncertain for his agency roster.

Ewanick previously announced there would be no GM Super Bowl ads next year, and publicly pulled GM’s paid advertising budget out of Facebook prior to the company’s IPO.

The Super Bowl future is unclear. The Facebook business may be in turnaround: the Wall Street Journal reported that GM CEO Dan Akerson has had meetings with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

So will Ewanick’s Commonwealth brainchild, which both McCann and Goodby moved employees to Detroit for, survive?

Jeff Goodby, a close friend of Ewanick, told Ad Age that he was surprised by the CMO’s departure. “So this turn of events is unsettling for us … but as for the Commonwealth structure he set up, it has been a big success … We have no reason to believe that the current relationship won’t continue to be enormously successful.”

Goodby declined to comment further and McCann is deferring questions to GM.

Ewanick’s temporary predecessor, Alan Batey, is a British ex-pat: Could this be an advantage for the UK-based McCann side of the business? McCann heads the non-U.S. global side of the account and Batey’s first announcement today was unveiling GM and Manchester United’s new relationship, which, pointedly, is the apparent reason GM cited for Ewanick’s departure.

A source close to GM’s ad business tells us Ewanick wasn’t Goodby’s only friend at GM, and the agency has a relationship with Batey as well. Furthermore, the source said, even though GM’s old Detroit agencies are inevitably (and probably bitterly) circling, if Commonwealth is saving as much money as it’s supposed to be, the joint agency venture shouldn’t be in jeopardy.

There has also been a lot of speculation about McCann’s recent track record. Adweek recently published an article about McCann’s CEO with the headline, “Is Nick Brien Saving McCann or Screwing It Up?”  As of June, the agency had lost Nescafe, ExxonMoblie (with whom they did business for 100 years!), Lufthansa, P.F. Chang’s Bertolli, Nesquick, Coffee-Mate, and Holiday Inn in only nine months.

If, for some horrendous reason, McCann, were unable to retain the Batey relationship and lost GM, it would likely lead to calls for Brien to resign.

We’ll keep you updated as things begin to settle.

If you have any information on what’s going on at GM, Goodby, and McCann, please email [email protected]

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