Ford's global creative review spells trouble for longtime partner WPP

The automaker is one of WPP's largest accounts.

Ford has put its global creative business into review, a move that comes less than a week after Martin Sorrell, CEO of longtime incumbent WPP, stepped down from his post following an internal investigation into personal misconduct.

"WPP will have an opportunity to compete with other firms to retain these portions of the business, and will remain Ford’s agency of record in some other key areas," said GTB, WPP’s dedicated Ford agency, in an internal memo Friday.

The automaker’s decision, while a blow for WPP, is not too much of a shock after Ford said it was reviewing its global relationship with the holding group in November.

According to a WPP regulatory announcement at the time: "WPP announces that, on 27 November 2017 in Detroit, Ford Motor Company verbally informed WPP that they are considering their future internal and external marketing model and want to enter into a further agreement with WPP for a period to be agreed in 2018. WPP is considering the proposal and is in discussion with Ford on next steps."

WPP has not yet named a successor for Sorrell. In the meantime, Chairman Roberto Quarta is serving as executive chairman and newly named joint chief operating officers Mark Read and Andrew Scott are helping to run the business.

Read, who is responsible for clients, operating companies and people at WPP, said in an internal memo this week: "The clients I’ve spoken to have all been clear: they value their partner agencies and teams, they expect them to continue to deliver, and they have no doubt that they will."

In 2016, WPP rebranded its Team Detroit, Blue Hive, and Retail First operations, all of which were created to work for Ford, under a single global identity called Global Team Blue or GTB. Team Detroit was set up in 2007. GTB operates from 49 offices on six continents and is WPP's largest agency team, with more than 2,000 staffers.

Representatives from GTB and Ford were not immediately available for comment.

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