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Lincoln Flees Detroit

Ad team heading to the Big Apple.

by on Dec.16, 2011

The updated Lincoln MKT. An even more radical design concept will be revealed in Detroit next month.

So much for “Made in Detroit.”  Ford Motor Co. has announced it is shifting the advertising work for the Lincoln brand from Detroit to New York after the first of the year in a bid to rebuild the brand’s luxury image and cachet.

Lincoln and Team Detroit at WPP have announced the creation of a new “luxury-oriented boutique agency” dedicated to Lincoln’s brand reinvention and creative marketing communications strategy. The WPP-owned agency, based in New York City, will open its doors on Jan. 1 and be headed by luxury automotive veteran, Cameron McNaughton, who joins as president of the agency and reports to Satish Korde, CEO of Team Detroit.

The ad shift is paired with a significant new product strategy that will be previewed at the Detroit Auto Show next month, Lincoln sources confirm.

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“We’re reinventing the Lincoln product and ownership experience and working to make it a unique, compelling proposition for today’s luxury customer,” said Jim Farley, group vice president, Global Marketing, Ford Motor Company. “Assembling a talented, Lincoln-only creative agency team, in partnership with Team Detroit and WPP, to build this brand is an important next step in our plan.” Farley said.

Ford staffers this week said privately the development of Lincoln’s future product plan has also been separated from Ford’s established product development office. “Lincoln is now a completely separate organization,” said one Ford staffer.

To handle the advertising work, the New York team will initially comprise approximately 45 staff and will focus on account management, creative development, media and strategic planning. Support departments and disciplines for Lincoln – including client accounting, digital programming, media buying, creative production, top market field organization and traffic – will remain with Team Detroit in Dearborn.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have been able to attract Cameron with his wealth of luxury experience to lead this new team for Lincoln,” said Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive officer of WPP. “Our strong and unique relationship with Ford has allowed us to harness some of the best WPP talent around the globe, and it’s a logical next step for us to extend this with a bespoke team for Lincoln through Team Detroit, based in one of the key markets for this famous luxury automotive brand.”

Lincoln may be “famous,” but it is a shadow of its former self, sinking into the second tier or luxury brands, along with the likes of Audi and Infiniti.  Barely two decades ago it dominated the American high-end automotive market, routinely battling Cadillac – which is also struggling for what it often describes as a “renaissance” – for the number one luxury sales spot.

The timing of Lincoln’s advertising shift coincides with a significant product push.  The maker gave a hint of what’s to come with the launch of the new MKS sedan and MKT crossover, at the recent L.A. Auto Show.  As has reported, an even more significant new design theme will be unveiled at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show.

The new MKZ concept that will be shown in Detroit will even abandon the classic Lincoln waterfall grille, while adopting an all-glass roof that can be operated like a hardtop convertible. (Click Here for more.)

“Our goal is simple: To help our partners at Lincoln create a new future for their brand as it reinvents itself,” McNaughton said. “To achieve this, we are dedicated to creating a new, best-in-category integrated agency team that utilizes the top creative talent recruited within and outside of the WPP and Team Detroit network.”

Prior to joining WPP, McNaughton served as the president and founder of McNaughton Automotive Perspectives (MAP), which offered marketing consulting services to automotive manufacturers, dealers and their communications agencies. At MAP, McNaughton consulted on a range of brands with both marketers and agencies including: Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Hill Holliday, Hyundai, Mahindra, MicroMass Communications, Porsche, Publicis, Strawberryfrog and Vale Euro RSCG.

Prior to that, he was a partner at McKinney & Silver which he joined in 1994. He built and led the agency team that partnered with Audi of America to rebuild the brand’s U.S. business. Earlier in his career, McNaughton also worked on Mercedes-Benz and BMW at highly regarded creative agencies.

Another experienced luxury talent, Jon Pearce, has been appointed chief creative officer. Most recently, Pearce was executive creative director at BBH, New York. He was responsible for leading Johnnie Walker, Westin Hotels and Resorts, Unilever’s Vaseline Global account, and the BBC. Before arriving at BBH, Jon spent seven years at Team One in El Segundo, Cal., heading up the creative group responsible for every aspect of the Lexus automotive brand.

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