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General Motors (NYSE:GM) if the rumour mill is correct is close to awarding the $250 million per annum Cadillac account to Campbell Ewald. Campbell Ewald has had a relationship with GM since the Great Gatsby Years of the early 1920’s. The Cadillac brand which used to compete neck and neck with Lincoln Continental well both are considered pedestrian compared to Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
A recently former GM Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick had moved the account to Minneapolis based Fallon Worldwide Inc in a supposed attempt to bring in some fresh thinking. Everyone agreed that Cadillac needed some; no lots of fresh thinking.
Problem was according to Fortune magazine some reps to the board about some promotional deals with Manchester United did not bear scrutiny. Sooo….likes gets whacked. Not sure what his side of the story was. Like how hard is it to convince a stodgy GM board but anyway they parted ways. And as is usual in the post apocolytic scenes the former decisions are reversed. Good or bad they must be expunged.
OK so like if you are very new to GM let me point out they have recently gone bankrupt and only by the grace of Obama at the behest of unions fearing huge job loses were they propped up and forced to survive. Just recently they still had to go to congress to get senior officer pay packages approved because Uncle Sam still owns some 20%.
You have to get the cleansing process. after you whack a senior guy you go back to what is safe. But the safe contributed to the bankruptcy. Cadillac lost its iconic status.
As is my way lets look at the Board of Directors especially the independent ones and see what influences there were to allow this course of events. Cadillac is a premium supposedly ultra luxury brand. So experience in marketing premium ultra luxury should be an asset.
Short answer no one on the board has this pedigree. Take a quick look at the career DNA’s and decide for yourself. Then think about the quality of future issues if you care to venture out so far.
Thomas Schoew 59, was EVP Walmart, before that exec with Black and Decker. Currently a director of KKR and Northrop Gruman. OK the Walmart pedigree tells all.
Theodore M Solso 65, Chair and CEO Cummins the Engine People. Also director of Ball Corp and Ashland. No luxury brand expertise.
Robert Knebs 69, Was chairman of Burlington Northern Santa-Fe and was chair of UAL. Infrastructure guy.
Phillip Laskawy 71, Chair and CEO Ernst Young and DNA pedigree in financial services. Essential a numbers guy and probably a damn good one. but nowhere on the Cadillac file.
David Bonderman 69, Co-founding partner and managing partner of TPG, chair of Ryanair a low air fare discounter. Board seat on Caesar’s hints at high roller savvy but not quite.
Neville Isdell 68, Chair of Coca Cola mass consumer drink out of the bottle experience. not enough champagne to get the Cadillac brand and what it really needs.
Erroll Davis Jr. 67, Alliant Energy pedigree and more recently superintendent of Atlanta Public School System. Noble works but not exactly the gilded lifestyle experience.
Kathryn Marinello 55, Pedigree in Human Resources such as Ceridian, Senior Advisor to Providence Equity Partners and Ares Capital. Not to mention ten years as President & CEO GE Fleet Services.
Patricia Russo 59, CEO Alcatel-Lucent and before just Lucent. Director of alcoa, HP, KKR and Merck. OK so I cannot find the luxury brand experience in technology and pharma.
Cynthia Ann Telles 59, Doctor and member of faculty of UCLA Medical School-Psychiatry. A shrink with big peer respect. But Cadillac stuff does not show.
Carol Stephenson 61, President and CEO of Lucent Canada. Canadians you just have to watch them closely. They have health care and abundant energy resources plus decent education. Cadillacs not so big.
Michael Mulligan was a four star admiral and brings to the table geo-political insights.
James Mulva 65, Chair and CEO ConocoPhillips. Also director of GE Company.Big strategic stuff good. Fancy self-indulgent Cadillacs not there for it.
So basically no one on the Board gets Marketing much less the all important fat margin niche of luxury Marketing. The Cadillac account gets switched and good luck with that.
Much luxury growth will be in developing countries. Will a Michigan based advertising company with a few overseas offices get it.
Not the way I would place my bets.
George Gutowski writes from a caveat emptor perspective. Follow him on twitter@financialskepti or maybe follow his evil twin who is writing a Wall Street Murder Thriller at twitter@georgegutowski