WPP’s Dedicated Ford Agency GTB to Lay Off 2% of Global Staff Following Account Loss

Several dozen including creative lead affected

The automaker picked BBDO and W+K to lead creative earlier this year. Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

GTB, the global network dedicated to serving WPP’s single largest client, Ford Motor Company, confirmed today that it will lay off approximately two percent of its total staff around the world.

The news comes just over two months after the Detroit-based client named BBDO as its new lead creative agency and Wieden + Kennedy as a key “innovation partner” following an extended review managed by London’s Flock Associates. Ford previously assigned its comeback campaign to W+K’s New York office.

While WPP retained media planning and buying, PR, CRM, web development and other portions of the business, the decision still marked a significant loss at a particularly sensitive time for the holding company, especially since creative is the most visible part of the account.

“GTB has been working with Ford Motor Company on its future marketing model and will lead all media planning and buying, digital and production work,” read a statement from a GTB spokesperson. “Responsibilities also include Tier II advertising work in the U.S., the China advertising operations with its joint venture partner, Lincoln advertising, and all the Ford public relations business.”

The statement continued, “As the support model is evolving, some reductions to staffing will occur. The size and the timing of the staffing reductions will vary from market to market. GTB is leveraging WPP’s global agency network and regional agency partners to limit the impact and support those affected. As a trusted global communications partner, GTB is committed to delivering extraordinary consumer impact for brands through creative content, data and technology.”

Sources close to GTB told Adweek last month that layoffs were expected to begin in mid-December and that they were rumored to be the first of multiple rounds.

The precise number of employees affected is unclear at this time, but GTB–formed by the 2016 merger of Team Detroit, Blue Hive and Retail First–operates more than 40 offices on six continents. Recent estimates hold that WPP employed approximately 3,000 individuals working on the business, which would mean that it will part with less than one hundred staffers.

According to two parties with knowledge of the matter, the agency’s creative, strategy and production departments were among those affected by this round of cuts, which primarily hit GTB’s Dearborn, Mich. headquarters in addition to operations in Canada and Latin America.

Chief creative officer Tito Melega, who took over for the departed Toby Barlow last fall after running TBWA’s Nissan account for several years, was among those let go. He declined to comment.

The individuals familiar with GTB said employees have not seen CEO Satish Korde in the office in recent weeks, with Kim Brink, global chief operating officer and former General Motors executive, understood to be playing a larger role in the organization.

This round of layoffs is still smaller than the one that hit GTB Dearborn, London and Shanghai last summer, when 100 to 150 employees were let go.

A GTB spokesperson declined to elaborate beyond the statement above. Ford representatives have not responded to a request for comment.

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.