General Motors’ Chevrolet brand certainly came up with an interesting solution to its so-called “global” creative review by inking a contract with two agencies from different massive holding companies. (as predicted here January 19)
Omnicom Group’s Goodby, Silverstein and Partners in San Francisco and IPG’s McCann Erickson in New York formed a new 50-50 joint venture called Commonwealth to shepherd creative for GM’s biggest brand. GM was crowing that this is” the first of its kind” global venture and indeed it is. Hmmm- could there be some reason no other marketer has tried this before?
Let’s be clear on one thing: the account is not truly global, since it doesn’t include China, India or Uzbekistan, which are among the world’s biggest and fastest-growing car markets. GM CMO Joel Ewanick said in the phone press conference this week that China and India, both handled by McCann, “are investigating whether or nor they want to come along” under the Commonwealth tent.
Ewanick touted savings of more than $2 billion over the next five years as a result of this creative consolidation from 70 shops PLUS GM’s recent global media consolidation to Carat, which is part of yet a third big holding company Aegis (More on that later).
Has the scope of the work really changed here for Chevrolet creative? Even if the same creative idea is used in several different markets around the globe, the ads will have to be reworked in other languages and GM’s legal beagles will have to be more involved. Commonwealth bring complexity, not simplicity, to the mix.
There was lots of happy talk during GM’s phone press conference from the involved agency partners. McCann Worldgroup Chairman Nick Brien, chairman and CEO, McCann Worldgroup, called the new Detroit-based shop “a unique opportunity… that will make sure Chevrolet has a global voice.”
Jeff Goodby,co-chairman and creative chief at Chevrolet’s USA agency, dubbed it “a great collaboration.” Goodby, whose shop was hand-picked by Ewanick for Chevy’s US creative account , admitted during the call that the interests of the top brass of the holding companies can “kind of be at odds with each other.” But, he added , that doesn’t extend down the corporate rank and since he knows all the McCann creatives who will be involved personally, “the egos will be checked at the door.”
Easier said than done. Anyone who has worked for an agency creative chief knows how they can be. It’s great these creatives from different agencies know one another. But that’s personal and this is business we’re talking about. I do think these guys will play well together – for a while at least anyway – for the sake of the client and the account. But how long will it last if one agency’s work keeps winning? Will the egos stay at the door? Let’s be realistic I think not.
GM has tried this dual-company approach in the past, when it had its massive USA media planning and buying split between IPG and Publicis. At the time, GM’s brass said the holding companies’ two agencies would work well together. But in the end, to the surprise of no one but GM apparently, they didn’t play nice with each other at all. The automaker ended up consolidating its media business at Publicis, which just lost its US account to Aegis’ Carat after a global review.
GM’s dual media agency set up all happened before Ewanick arrived. Still, isn’t history there to teach us lessons, especially when things go wrong? It’s the old “live-and-learn” adage, which really just means we have to learn the hard way.
Adding Carat on media into the mix globally to work with Chevy’s hybrid creative agency owned by two other holding companies certainly has the potential to complicate things further. What are the best mediums to use in each country? And will the creatives and media folks agree? Who’s the referee here? If the bottom line determines the buys, will the creatives be happy?
I AM impressed with the creative firepower Commonwealth has assembled. Jeff Goodby is one of four creatives on the new agency’s board and will serve as Commonwealth’s creative chairman.
The other three are:
–Washington Olivetto, chairman of WMcCann and chief creative officer of McCann Worldgroup across Latin America and the Caribbean. Olivetto has won more than 50 Lions at Cannes in just the film category, elected Advertising Man of the Century by the Latin American Advertising Agencies and in 2009 was inducted into the FIAP’s Hall of Fame of FIAP (Ibero-American Advertising Festival).
- Swede Linus Karlsson, who joined McCann earlier this year as chairman and chief creative officer of its Manhattan and London offices. Karlsson moved to the US in 1996 to work at Fallon in Minneapolis on brands like BMW and Miller Lite before co-founding the successful, indie New York shop Mother.
-Indian-born Prasoon Joshi, who, since late 2006 has been executive chairman for McCann Worldgroup India along with regional creative director-Asia Pacific. He started his ad career as a copywriter, but is also a Bollywood film songwriter, poet and screenwriter. In 2007 and 2008, he won the Filmfare Best Lyricist Award.
Here’s the foursome
(Left to Right: Olivetto; Goodby; Joshi; Karlsson)
Meanwhile, an interesting duo to watch will be the co-managing directors of Commonwealth in Detroit: Joe Garcia, president of McCann Midwest in suburban Detroit and Todd Grantham, Goodby’s account chief in San Fran, who will relocate to the Motor City.
Believe it or not I am rooting for this whole thing to work. I’d like to see Chevrolet get its act together and do well around the world. But the biggest challenge I see in this whole set is : It up simply flies in the face of human nature.
Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Forbes.com
On Twitter: @jhal2001