DETROIT -- George Rogers said he didn't want to be typecast as a "car guy." But it seems he can't escape his past.
In 1997, the advertising executive left Arnold Worldwide, where he had headed the Volkswagen of America account. He moved to Mullen Advertising Inc., where he took over the agency's General Motors business.
But Rogers said he wanted the chance to do other things. So Mullen also put him in charge of its accounts for XM Satellite Radio, Stanley Tools, the Swiss army and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Last spring, Rogers became president of the JWT ad agency office here. Ford Motor Co. dominates the office's business. Rogers, 45, added the title of CEO last fall.
Rogers faces big challenges in 2006. Ford has installed new marketing leadership as it fights to rebuild its North American business.
At the same time, JWT's parent company, WPP, is reconfiguring its ad agencies that work for Ford in the United States.
Those revisions will result in shared services and office space, as well as job cuts.
Rogers says he'll boost staff morale amid the changes by "creating opportunities for people" and "doing more innovative work for our clients."
He cites the recent launch of the Ford Fusion as an example of JWT's new marketing approach. The sedan is selling briskly, thanks in part to an online concert series that preceded its launch.
JWT Detroit has 800 employees. Rogers compares the operation with a small college.
Alan Pafenbach, a former colleague at Arnold, calls Rogers a "shrewd guy." Rogers had a great relationship with VWoA's then marketing leader, Steve Wilhite, Pafenbach says.
The two executives got some "early great work done," he says. Wilhite now is senior vice president of global marketing for Nissan Motor Co.
Pafenbach says Rogers knew how to "get people to do the right thing" on the VWoA account. For example, he says, Rogers persuaded the automaker to shoot a TV commercial for the Golf in New Zealand, where a winter background was available. "He did a lot to help the creative people do their job," Pafenbach adds.
Phil Guarascio, a former GM marketing chief, supervised Rogers in his first ad agency job at Benton & Bowles. Says Guarascio: "George was clearly on the hot list."