After serving as Cadillac general manager for one year, Mike O'Malley jumped last April to J. Walter Thompson, where he serves as president of the Detroit office and executive vice president and global business director for the agency's giant Ford account. O'Malley comes with plenty of client experience. He worked in the marketing and sales areas of each of the Big 3 - first at Ford, then at the former Chrysler Corp. and finally, in 1988, at GM.
O'Malley and JWT have their work cut out for them polishing Ford's oval while feeling the compensation pinch. O'Malley talked with Staff Reporter Julie Cantwell and Special Correspondent Laura Clark Geist about the challenges ahead for the agency.
How is the agency going to be involved in polishing the blue oval?
Ford's leaders, especially in North America, and I really see the Ford oval as being Ford Motor Co. (COO) Nick Scheele and Bill Ford have mentioned it. And because we've been the stewards of the Ford corporate brand and the Ford Division brand for so many years, we (must) provide direction on what can be done to improve the brand health.
With whom will you work?
We work with the Ford Division people, those are our primary clients, such as (Ford Division President) Jim O'Connor. But because the Ford oval transcends so many groups in the company, we work with Nick Scheele, and (global marketing chief) Jan Klug is periodically involved. You also have (North America group vice president) Jim Padilla involved.
Is working with GM different from working with Ford?
It comes down to the people in charge and how are they are steering the ship. Ford was a lot different when Jacques Nasser was running it than it is with Bill (Ford) and Nick (Scheele). It's not personality-driven; it's more strategically driven by those people. Nick's direction is back-to-the-basics, product-led revitalization. Paraphrasing Scheele: "We are going to cut costs and go through a retrenchment and be stronger than we were before."
Does that cost cutting include the amount paid to ad agencies?
When Ford is in a cost-cutting mode, you can bet that I'm in a cost-cutting mode at J. Walter Thompson.
How many staffers have you cut?
Overall we're down. I would rather not say what specifically. But we're down over the last six months.
Have you won more Ford Dealer Advertising Fund accounts from independent agencies?
We have been really focused on execution as opposed to growth right now. When your client is dealing with the kind of pressures and problems that Ford has been facing for months now, you really focus on doing things right and executing professionally.
Can you talk about your desire to go more global with J. Walter Thompson?
First of all, brands are clearly global. So, theoretically, you need to manage your brand as tightly as you can over a very wide expanse. We want to do that business for Ford in every market where Ford markets Ford-branded products.
Are you involved in planning the Trustmark brands?
(Ford Global Media Manager) Mark (Kaline) and some of our Ford clients have liked our planning work, and they think we've got a good handle on how these plans should develop, so they are looking to take best practices and share them with the other divisions and agencies.
How do you work with the brand managers at Ford?
It's very similar to the way it works at GM. There is a lot of emphasis on planning and product development. But there also is a lot of influence on the message. There is a lot of input into incentive plans.
Have you changed the structure of the media-buying group at Ford Motor Media?
We're going to do totally integrated plans. That's where you put your marketing dollars into many different areas with good quality consumer contact results. The other end is that you buy very efficiently, with a broader, less targeted demographic. And you buy it on a broader basis.