CMO Spotlight: Team Detroit's Sanfilippo Talks About The Results At Ford

Ford reported first-quarter losses, but they were far slimmer than analysts had expected and far slimmer than during the quarter last year. The company reported a net loss of $282 million, versus a loss of $1.4 billion in the first quarter last year.

First-quarter revenue for the company was $43 billion, versus $40.8 billion in the quarter last year. The company attributed the improvement to a more desirable mix of products and currency-exchange benefits.

Alan Mulally, Ford's CEO since last year, said in a release that the shallower descent reflects the benefits of Ford's "Way Forward" plan begun last year, before he took the reins from Bill Ford, and has accelerated under his watch. "We are making progress on ... restructuring the company, accelerating product development, funding our plan, and working effectively as one team," he said in a release.

The company has also sought to gain efficiencies on the marketing side by combining under one roof all of its WPP advertising, media and communications agencies. Team Detroit, as the new structure is called, is housed in one building in Dearborn, Mich.



Last month the company hired Jim Sanfilippo, as Team Detroit's CMO, reporting--along with a global planning executive and a CFO--to George Rogers, former president of JWT and head of Team Detroit. Sanfilippo, formerly executive vice president of AMCI Marketing, Detroit, is a 30-year vet of the auto business who has worked with VW, and was vice president of marketing at Kia Motors America.

Marketing Daily decided to find out what's been on his mind.

Marketing Daily: What are the benefits to Ford of the Team One structure?

Jim Sanfilippo: Incredible efficiencies. Ford used to have separate agencies, with separate billing, housed in different places. Now there's one balance sheet, one IT, one HQ, one production process. It has saved Ford a fabulous amount of money, while preserving the differences between JWT, Y&R, GroupM, Wunderman, Ogilvy. It's a very interesting model, and it's unique to WPP. They are very interested in it.

MD: What's your job, and why were you the right person for it?

JS: Doing whatever for all marketing for all Ford brands, and within every enterprise here to ensure practices are coming from the right strategy and from a product-centric point of view. I come from both sides of the business and have been involved in several turnarounds. I have very good strategic credentials. I really try to hold some realism to the messaging built around product, and that's the only sustainable way to approach it. You can see we are doing some of that right now.

MD:The "Ford Challenge" campaign is product-centric. Does it pass muster?

JS: The reason I like the Ford Challenge so much is that for the agency to have depicted that in a 30-second TV commercial based on testimonials was a very, very well-executed idea. And it's a risk to bring that to screen. It's very hard to do that credibly. That's why it's a nice piece of advertising. When I was still at AMCI, I thought it was dangerous to us [AMCI runs automotive comparison events, among other things] because they did it on small scale, with "Road and Track" using segment leaders, and they went to the right venues--L.A. and Washington.

MD: David Mamet directed the next pair of "Challenge" commercials. How else would you like to see that campaign expanded?

JS: It has been very successful because it's both a polite and insistent message, and not strictly comparison ads, since we are comparing, say, Ford Edge BMW's X5 for performance, and Lexus for quiet. They are in different segments from Edge, but they are emblems of performance and quiet. I'd like to take "Ford Challenge" to other markets, to New York, Miami, perhaps Chicago and maybe Dallas.

MD: What's your take on Ford's first-quarter results?

JS: First, it surprised the analysts. No, it's by no means great news--a loss is a loss. However, on a year-to-year basis, it obliterated analyst expectations. Any pilot will tell you [that] you can't climb out of a dive until you level out. The first goal was stability in terms of share, so this is a long process, but directionally, Q1 results were promising. Ford's new products are doing very well. They are having success with Fusion, which is surprising because it's not the newest product in the market. So consumers are still open to that proposition that we are challenging conventional wisdom of segment leadership "just because those guys sell more than we do doesn't mean you shouldn't take a look." Ford is creating new customers with cars, and they are losing customers with trucks.

MD: How are you going to re-introduce the Taurus name?

JS: If I told you that, I'd have to kill you.

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