Ford Motor Co. is asking the Accenture management consulting firm to put the automaker's marketing plans under a microscope.
The program could dramatically change Ford Motor's thinking about how much it spends and which media it uses for advertising launches in the United States. That would affect the work of the company's ad agencies, almost all of which are owned by the WPP group. Those agencies include JWT and Y&R.
Ford Motor is studying major vehicle launches for its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, said two executives with knowledge of the program. The company wants to determine the best media mix for ad launches, both nationally and by regional dealer groups, based on targeted annual sales volume.
Jeffrey Merrihue, CEO of Accenture Marketing Services in London, confirmed that Ford Motor had hired his firm. He declined further comment.
Murat Yalman, Ford Motor's executive director of marketing services, is orchestrating the program for his company. He would not discuss the program.
Accenture previously has examined Ford Motor's return on its marketing investment. It also designed, built and managed a Web-based program Ford Motor uses to deliver technical education to its suppliers. Accenture has more than 110 offices in 48 countries.
Ford Motor is likely to begin the new media evaluation program on the East Coast. Its success there will determine whether the company introduces it nationally.
Ford Motor spent $1.14 billion to advertise in U.S. media in the first 10 months of 2005, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Of that amount, the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands spent $934 million.
The company hired Media Performance Monitor America to audit its U.S. media spending in 2004. Several automakers have conducted return-on-investment studies of media spending as their finance departments gained greater authority for marketing.
Ford Motor is not hiring Accenture to replace its ad agencies, sources said.
"It's an additive thing, not a substitutive thing," said an executive, who asked not to be identified.
If Accenture develops valid data, another executive said, the program will significantly affect Ford Motor's strategic media planning.