Who Should Be GM’s Next CMO?

AutoAdOpolis is wondering who General Motors will tap as its new CMO after the automaker unceremoniously forced Joel Ewanick to resign as VP-global CMO.

It will take a while for GM to get to it, which will give this red hot story a chance to cool down and get the media’s attention looking elsewhere. But GM SHOULD find a successor by the end of the year. It needs a strong-willed CMO to pull things together, streamline the ad approval process and improve advertising- fingers crossed on that one.

For now, GM named a sales and ops insider, Alan Batey, as interim chief.

The Brit, who joined GM in 1979 as a mechanical engineering apprentice, had held several key management posts overseas. Batey was only just moved in May to the newly-created post of GM VP for US Sales and Service from the same post at Chevrolet in the US. Nothing in his bio offers any hints at his marketing expertise. But not to worry, since the buzz is that GM will find a new CMO.

 Note to GM and its CEO Dan Akerson: Please don’t pick a sales guy or gal for your new CMO. We’ve been down that road with GM before- and let’s just say it didn’t exactly work out. Also-engineers and finance experts need not apply. GM needs another change, which translates to an outsider.

But what if GM opts to hire back one of its “grads,” now outsiders again? There are several interesting possibilities.

When I first heard about Joel’s ouster, the first name I thought of as a successor was Mark LaNeve, who left GM in 2009 shortly after the automaker emerged from bankruptcy and not long after he was moved to VP-sales from a four-year stint as VP-sales, service and marketing in North America.  But just as GM’s CMO fiasco was exploding, LaNeve was preparing to join Ford Motor’s ad agency, Team Detroit in Dearborn, as COO. Timing is everything, eh?

One of my sources, a former GM ad agency exec, suggested W.W. Brent Dewar, another GM alum. Dewar retired from post-Chapter 11 GM in early 2010 as ChevroletVP-general manager and global co-ordinator. Dewar, a 31-year vet of GM, was one of those execs either loved or not loved by insiders. According to Dewar’s Facebook postings, he certainly seems to be enjoying his times and travels with his family.

What about GM grad Mark-Hans Richer, who left in 2007 to join Harley-Davidson as senior VP-CMO? Richer has the right experience, having worked at DDB Needham Worldwide in Chicago before joining GM in 1998 as ad manager of  Chevy trucks. He has international experience too; he was director for Latin America on the McDonald’s account at DDB.

Richer is willing to take risks, having helped orchestrate a watershed media stunt as Pontiac’s marketing director to give away new G6 cars to the entire audience of Oprah Winfrey’s in September 2004.

His launch of Pontiac’s sexy, Solstice roadster should be a text-book case study. Under Richer’s baton, Pontiac won a slew ad of awards, including two Cannes Gold Lions, Gold Effies and a Super Reggie.

But I don’t think the odds are very good for a Richer return — even if GM would make make him an offer. He’s back in his home town of Milwaukee working on an iconic brand. I really think he’s having too much fun at Harley. Richer spent a week in China earlier this month to ride the Tibetan Plateau on a Harley to help kick off the brand’s 110th anniversary.

Which candidates should GM consider? Please take this quick poll

 

Thanks for your input!

MAKING TRACKS: Congrats to Dan Riley, promoted to VP at Time Inc. from group ad director in Detroit since November 2008. Dan joined Time in 2001 as ad director of People.

Follow me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn and Facebook.

On Twitter: @jhal2001

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One response to “Who Should Be GM’s Next CMO?

  1. How about someone with GM agency and GM client-side car/truck and financial experience? How about one Andrea Riley?

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