Realigned Ford PR firms to focus on lifestyle

DEARBORN, MI: WPP, the holding company behind the galaxy of Ford's ad and communications firms in Dearborn, MI, is integrating PR with a new lifestyle-marketing group.

DEARBORN, MI: WPP, the holding company behind the galaxy of Ford's ad and communications firms in Dearborn, MI, is integrating PR with a new lifestyle-marketing group.

WPP this year will group five of its agencies -JWT, Ogilvy, Y&R, and media firms MindShare and Mediaedge: CIA - under one roof, where they will share expertise within several new practice-focused divisions.

In the new structure, marketing-focused PR will be housed under Brand Experience Services (BES). Tim Copacia, managing director of direct marketing firm Wunderman, will oversee BES, which handles CRM, database and analytics, and experiential marketing.

Copacia said BES' PR team will be led by Laurie Harnick, who became director of PR at Wunderman in June after leaving Burson-Marsteller. She said she will focus on promoting Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury by boosting their visibility in lifestyle venues and publications. BES will tap into other agencies Ford is using, including Burson.

"The main idea is to have PR have a seat at the table with other marketing disciplines when we are putting together plans and programs," she said, "so PR gets built in from the beginning."

Ford isn't alone. The decline of network TV's primacy in advertising, as well as the fragmenting of both media and car and truck offerings, has put pressure on carmakers to target buyers. Last fall, Ford launched a PR campaign touting Mercury's new Milan in independent theaters owned by Landmark. Copacia said PR will also focus on outreach to lifestyle media. "Its focus will be going beyond just automotive press," he said.

Kevin Kennedy, EVP of PCG-Campbell, a Dearborn, MI-based agency that handles a lot of PR for Ford Motor Co., said he didn't foresee the development affecting PCGCampbell's work with Ford.

"In all honesty, I don't see this affecting us that much," Kennedy said. "We specialize in some of the areas they don't and vice versa."

Kennedy said the work PCGCampbell does for Ford Motor Co. represents 80% to 85% of the company's business. It handles projects ranging from media relations and event marketing for the Ford Racing Program to sponsorship activation to national dealer meetings.

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