MediaPost Publications Q&A: GM's Ewanick, Perry Dish On Global Strategy 02/09/2011


Joel Ewanick, CMO of global marketing for General Motors, has not just taken on a new job but a new position at the automaker, which had not had someone on the marketing team answering directly to the CEO (now Dan Akerson) and the executive committee. That gives Ewanick — who will oversee Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, Opel and Vauxhall around the world — a lot of responsibility.

The promotion also elevates the status of Chris Perry, who now basically has Ewanick’s previous job of running marketing for GM’s four core brands in the U.S.

Globally, Chevrolet is the biggest of GM’s brands. Both were in New York last week to show off the company’s ads for the division that aired in the Super Bowl. They spoke with Marketing Daily about what a new global strategy means for key GM brands and his role.

Q: This is a big task, and a new one for you. How are you handling the scope of this?

JE: There is a whole bunch of people and there’s a full infrastructure around the world that has basically been run by the regions — North America, South America, GMIO (including Asia, and India) and Europe. Now, we are coordinating it through a global marketing function. The good thing is that before now, there had never been anyone in marketing at the executive-committee level. There has been someone below in this position [Jonathan Browning, who was VP, global sales, service and marketing, and is now CEO of Volkswagen of America], but never at that level. Browning was the last one, but not at an executive level. And it didn’t last long because the position had no teeth.

Q: But you’re very hands-on. Doesn’t this separate you from …

JE: (indicating Chris Perry) This is my hands-on guy. We have divided and conquered, which is what we have always done. Chris will be responsible for Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC, working for me, and under him he has four vice presidents for each division that report back up to him.

Q: In the U.S. market …

JE: Right, in the U.S.

CP: I’ll be working more closely with the creative agencies: with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, Leo Burnett, Fallon — and Joel will help to continue to roll out social media worldwide — he’ll play more of a role there. So my main liaisons will be with the creative agencies and VPs.

Q: To whom will [GM director of advertising strategy] Liz Boone report?

JE: Liz Boone will report to me, and she no longer has creative responsibility in North America. Chris will do all the creative oversight in this market. And the social will come to me. That will be easier to manage now because programs around the Internet and the back architecture had not been in marketing, but now are. We fixed that.

Q: Where was it?

JE: It was part of IT, and that’s typically how it’s done. We had the same thing at Hyundai and Kia.

CP: We have a new global Web site and mobile version of that site. One thing we recognized here was a need to have our digital platforms global on all brands. GM had already started some of that, but we have accelerated. We have really accelerated the process with Chevrolet.

Q: And this was possible because the entire Web strategy both consumer-facing and the back-end technology are now under the purview of marketing?

JE: Yes, because we need to be a lot more flexible in terms of the architecture. We started this project a year ago and things have changed dramatically just since then. We really want to be able to adjust the architecture we put our platforms on.

Q: What agency is handling GM digital marketing globally?

JE: We have [digital agency] MRM Wordwide under McCann Worldgroup. They are international and are working this Web platform in every country.

Q: So all digital is being handled by MRM?

JE: Yes, tailored to each market’s needs and preferences, but run through Global Marketing. There are a whole lot of people working on it.

CP:’s mobile site will also be completely new. There are significant numbers of people surfing the Web through wireless devices, from iPads to smartphones. Pundits and people like that watching the digital world will tell you that in two years more searches will be on mobile devices than on desktops. So we want to get ahead of that so our systems are in place to catch that when that really starts to turn.

JE: The fact is the U.S. is behind when it comes to the Internet. Korea, China mobile are really way out there. So what we found is people in Korea are more likely to have a cell phone than a landline. In the U.S. that’s typical of some demographics, but in Korea that’s all demographics.

CP: They basically missed the landline and went straight to cell phones.

JE: Which is an advantage for us.

Q: Will there also be a global ad shop?

JE: Stay tuned on that — we will see, though I tend to doubt it. There will definitely be a global core strategy that everyone adheres to and tailors to their own market. We have a very good strategy here in North America for Chevrolet, so we started sharing this around the world and already the Brazilians have an almost identical strategy. It’s on this whole idea of “Everyday Hero,” and they are already executing it very well. In fact, I think some of the work coming out of McCann in Brazil is some of the best in the world.

Q: Does your new post mean you are likely to have a hand in creative market-by-market creative strategy? Will you veto creative or enforce a certain creative direction in different markets?

JE: We aren’t going to be prescriptive. I’ve been on the receiving end of prescriptive strategies and we don’t want to do that. But we will have global launch or global initiatives — there’s one that we are thinking about now that’s not necessarily an ad campaign, but a way to launch cars during a certain period that will be global. And we have things now — [Universal Pictures release] “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” for instance. That’s a global movie premiere of which we are a big partner.

via MediaPost Publications Q&A: GM’s Ewanick, Perry Dish On Global Strategy 02/09/2011.