Ewanick era at GM takes shape -- fast

In just three months, GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick has changed agencies and replaced personnel.
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DETROIT -- Last week's leadership change at Chevrolet makes one thing clear: General Motors Co. marketing chief Joel Ewanick has the muscle to do what he deems necessary.

Ewanick took GM's top marketing job in May on the condition that he be given power to make changes quickly.

Last week, he moved Jim Campbell out as head of Chevrolet marketing and installed Chris Perry, a close associate from Ewanick's former employer, Hyundai Motor America.

While GM has improved the quality and style of its vehicles in recent years, it gets low marks for marketing. Ewanick -- the fourth marketing chief at GM in the past year -- was brought in from the outside to provide clear and compelling identities and advertising for Buick, GMC, Cadillac and Chevrolet.

In just three months, Ewanick has:

-- Awarded the Chevrolet advertising account to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, pulling it from Publicis Groupe, which had been awarded the account a month earlier.

-- Replaced the advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty on the Cadillac account with Fallon. Bartle Bogle Hegarty had been Cadillac's agency for five months.

-- Moved Campbell aside after only five months as Chevrolet's top marketer to bring in Perry. Campbell became Chevrolet's vice president for marketing in March after having been made brand general manager in December. Campbell, 46, now will become vice president of GM's performance vehicles and motorsports unit.

-- Killed Chevrolet's "Excellence for All" advertising tag line shortly after it debuted.

Ewanick interviewed with GM before moving in March from Hyundai's top U.S. marketing post to Nissan North America. He has said that at that time he doubted he would have the authority he needed to revamp GM marketing.

In a recent interview, Ewanick said he jumped to GM shortly after arriving at Nissan because GM North America President Mark Reuss offered him freedom from the company's traditional bureaucratic restrictions.

"He said he needed me to do what I needed to do to fix the marketing," Ewanick told Advertising Age, a sister publication of Automotive News. "I said 'Anything?' and he said: 'Everything and anything. I've got your back, and Ed [Whitacre, GM's CEO] has your back. Just do what you need to do.' "

Ewanick's move to hire Perry reunites him with a key colleague from Hyundai, where Ewanick was vice president for marketing. Perry succeeded him in that post.

"Chris brings 25 years of marketing experience -- more than 20 years in the automotive industry -- to the Chevrolet marketing position," Ewanick said in a statement.

"I have worked with Chris in the past and know he will use his unique ability to integrate strategic and creative marketing activities across all communications disciplines to reconnect consumers to the Chevrolet brand."

Perry has been with Hyundai since 2000. Before taking the top marketing job, he was director of marketing and advertising.

Hyundai dealers credit him with being a key player in developing the company's attention-getting marketing efforts -- including the Hyundai Assurance program, which lets a customer who finances or leases a new Hyundai return it if he loses his income within a year.

Perry will report to Ewanick. Hyundai has not named a successor to Perry.

Ryan Beene and David Barkholz contributed to this report

You can reach Dave Guilford at dguilford@crain.com. -- Follow Dave on

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