John Gaffney, who led Carat’s North American General Motors account out of Detroit, has parted ways with the agency, the shop has confirmed.
News of Gaffney’s exit follows the sudden departure over the weekend of Joel Ewanick, global CMO at the automaker. There was no immediate word on who would replace Gaffney on the GM account, but the agency is said to be looking at an “internal replacement.”
The circumstances surrounding Gaffney’s departure, which occurred last week, were unclear. Competing agencies were spinning the exodus as partly related to dissatisfaction on the part of the client with some aspects of the shop’s performance. In the spring, as the TV upfront was getting underway, GM and Ewanick made headlines for demanding significantly cheaper rates from the TV networks than the company had been paying in the past.
However, others more directly connected to the situation insisted that Gaffney’s exit was not related to the way Carat was handling the account, pricing or otherwise. Those sources indicated that Carat had agreed per a separation accord not to discuss reasons or terms for the parting. But they did insist it was not directly related to performance on the GM assignment.
Without confirming or denying the development, a GM spokesman said the company had no comment on Gaffney. “We do not comment on the reasons for personnel changes,” the rep stated in an email exchange.
It was just seven months ago that GM consolidated its global $3.5 billion media agency assignment with Carat after a lengthy review. Carat had previously handled the client’s European account and wrested North American duties from Publicis Groupe’s Starcom.
When the shift was confirmed back in January, Ewanick called Carat's approach "innovative" and able to "drive significant marketing value" that would align with the company's global and regional brands.
Gaffney, who has plenty of car account experience, joined Carat in January when GM completed its media consolidation review. Previously, he was with Mindshare, where he led both the Jaguar/Land Rover and CVS accounts at different junctures. Before that, he was head of operations, Ford Media Services at Mindshare parent GroupM.
Earlier, Gaffney served at MPG and Arnold Worldwide, both Havas agencies. He could not be immediately reached for comment.