When news hit last week that Nissan was plucking Hyundai's Joel Ewanick to be its new marketing chief, it didn't take John Wolkonowicz long to discern what the No. 3 Japanese automaker was up to.
Nissan wants to win U.S. share from Toyota, according to the veteran auto analyst.
And for that, the automaker may just have found the right person in Ewanick, No. 14 on Advertising Age's Power Players list and the driving force behind the many programs that netted Hyundai Advertising Age's Marketer of the Year honors in 2009. Advertising Age and Automotive News are Crain Communication Inc. publications.
Executives who have worked with Ewanick say he's not only innovative and fearless, but a shrewd politician with a knack for steering big ideas through intercontinental decision-making structures with speed.
"He has a real focus on being aggressive, spending some money and making a difference in sales, and he's good at seeing the world through the eyes of the people who buy the cars," said Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which has worked with him both at Hyundai and Porsche North America.
Case in point: The groundbreaking "Hyundai Assurance" program, which offered buyers their money back if they lost their jobs. "One day he came to me and told me that there was this program that would allow people to take a car back without damaging their credit, and he wanted to know if it was a good idea," recalled Goodby. "I said, 'You can do that?' He said, 'I think we can.' And the next thing I knew, we were advertising it."