'It's a bad day for WPP': What the Ford loss means for Mark Read's network

The holding company, which was the longtime incumbent on Ford, lost the global creative business to BBDO.

Ford, one of WPP’s largest accounts for decades, has shifted its global creative business to BBDO Worldwide, a move that some industry experts believe spells trouble for CEO Mark Read’s holding company.

WPP is retaining parts of the business, like media, production, CRM and digital, which is a healthy portion; however, the loss is still great for the company. According to people with knowledge of the matter, WPP had about 3,500 people working on Ford around the world and revenue from the account was about $700 million. It was not clear how much of a dent the revenue will take from losing the global creative business.

Campaign US reached out to industry experts to see what they think the loss means for WPP. See below.

Nancy Hill, founder and CEO of Media Sherpas

"Obviously, Ford continues to look for a fresh perspective on the brand. It seems they’ve found a way to keep the parts of WPP that were working and get that new set of eyes at the same time. It represents a big blow to JWT certainly, but plays to WPP’s strengths in media planning/buying, CRM as well as data and analytics. With Ford also bolstering their in-house capabilities, they clearly expect to recognize some cost savings in this new roster.  As I tell my clients, you have to learn to play nice in the sandbox. We are just seeing the beginning of these types of arrangements from clients of all sizes."


Greg Paull, principal at R3

"This is a dark day for WPP. Ford was one of the first and most iconic global clients. The ripples are going to be felt from Detroit to Farm Street and back."


Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research

"This new account structure replaces one which was centered around a bespoke agency housed at WPP called GTB (formerly Team Detroit) which has reportedly employed around 3,500 people to cover Ford at the national level, its dealers and several smaller accounts. We could reasonably estimate that an account of this size might generate around $500mm-$600mm in annual revenue. Although creative agency revenue might be generally 2x the revenue from media related activities, the volume of non-media/non-creative activity on the account and the fact that production is staying with WPP suggests that less than half of this amount might be leaving the holding company.

"For Omnicom, the win is clearly positive, and at the holding company level it may represent a nearly +2 percent boost to organic revenue starting in November. For WPP the news is negative, but not as negative as it could have been given the parts of the business they are retaining, which are all generally the faster growing aspects of any given account (core creative work is generally seeing less spending from larger marketers as they look to spread ideas out more broadly, refreshing campaigns less frequently and developing fewer high end creative assets, such as TV commercials). Our guess is that this will negatively impact WPP organic revenue by slightly more than -1 percent, also starting in November."


Ken Robinson, partner at Ark Advisors

"Global creative leadership of Ford’s agency roster is prestigious and sexy, to be sure. Don’t forget, however, that WPP is retaining a considerable – and mission critical – share of the account. While Joy Falotico calls out Ford’s new ‘world-class creative agencies,’ one should not underestimate the power and contribution of WPP’s scope  – media, production, digital, and CRM – in helping Ford "to unlock the full potential of the iconic Blue Oval."


Expert consultant who asked for anonymity

"It’s been indicated that the overall revenue to WPP is in the range of $700 million on Ford, but it’s not clear what portion is what. Obviously, this is massive and it’s not a good day for WPP, but I always say, ‘On to the next.’"

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