Motown’s macho man

Imagine picking up a newspaper or turning on the tube to learn your significant other has fallen
4fcaa6ba3e21 in love with someone else. Well, that's figuratively what happened to Greg Anderson, CEO of ad agency BBH, who read his agency had been fired by Cadillac in Advertising Age! No warning by the client. No note thanking the firm for its work. Nothing. Talk about being blindsided. To make matters worse, the exact same fate befell Susan Gianinno, CEO of Publicis, a month earlier.

Both had fallen victim to Motown's new macho man, Joel Ewanick, the VP of U.S. Advertising for General Motors. Ewanick has been in his job for exactly two months. In just 60 days, he's destroyed his own image, further tarnished GM's already tattered reputation and decimated two fine ad agencies. Now, there's something to tell the grandchildren one day (“Curl up on grandpa's lap and let me tell you about the time I whacked two hot shot ad agencies in less than 30 days. You kids will just love it!”).

Prior to GM, Ewanick had toiled for Nissan, Hyundai and a
yacht maker. Something tells his internal ethics compass went awry on board one
of those yachts.

Kudos to Ad Age for once again providing a valuable reader service by outing such horrific behavior. I wish our PR trades would follow suit. Trust me, Ewanick is not unique (and, try saying that three times fast).

If I were the Motown macho man's new agencies, though, I'd be sure the invoices were paid promptly. This guy put the 'v' in volatile.

We've been 'Ewanicked' a few times in our storied history, but it was never as sinister as this. We once pitched the division of a Fortune 500 company, for example, and were told a decision would be forthcoming shortly. Naturally, that was followed by complete radio silence. Then, sure enough, O'Dwyer's printed an article announcing the corporation's new agency of record. I was upset, so I e-mailed the prospect. He responded a few days later saying he thought he'd sent a letter to the losers. Nice. No apology. No explanation. Nothing. Just lots of wasted time and effort on our part and yet another misbehaving prospect not held accountable.

If there's a god (and one wonders nowadays), Ewanick will get his just desserts one day soon. Ideally, he'll wake up in his Grosse Point Farms estate, shuffle to the front door, pick up a copy of Automotive News and read the following, 'Ewanick Sacked. Smith to Head GM's Advertising.' I'll bet a lot of BBH and Publicis staffers would lift a glass of champagne to toast that decision.

6 thoughts on “Motown’s macho man

  1. Nice analysis, RecruitPete. I’d like to think bad people eventually get their just desserts, but most seem to slip effortlessly through life wreaking havoc at every step.

  2. After spending the holiday weekend at a Hindu spiritual retreat, I now think Ewanick’s next life will be as that of a sewer rat.
    Ewanick is Big Eddie Whitacre’s fair-haired boy and GM is looking the other way. One reason is that they’re gearing up for an IPO. Another is that they’re still clueless.
    For now, this makes Ewanick as immune as “Chainsaw Al” Dunlap was at Scott Paper and Sunbeam, or the infamous but now-forgotten James “The Smiling Cobra” Aubrey was at CBS back in the early Sixties.
    Both got theirs in the end. And make no mistake — if post-IPO GM marketing fails to move the sales & profitibility needle, this guy can expect one heck of a karmic blowback.

  3. I knew I could count on you for a post, Lunch. I cannot believe more people aren’t outraged by this guy’s behavior. Maybe it’s just a sign of the times. Misbehaving has become so commonplace that no one objects anymore. Except for you and me, Lunch.

  4. Excellent question, Julie, and, yes, there are guidelines. The Council of PR Firms has posted etiquette rules on its site ( We’ve also gone ahead and created two additional documents ourselves. One is called “the prospect pact” and details what the prospect should expect of us during the search process and what we expect of them (including being reimbursed for travel expenses if they end up never making any decision at all). We’ve also created a rules of engagement document for new clients that contains similar safeguards. It’s a shame either document is necessary. But, they are. There are lots and lots of abusive people out there. As Cat Stevens said, ‘It’s a wild world.’

  5. One can only hope that when the karmic wheel turns on this guy (and it will) he will wake up one morning only to read in Ad Age that GM has fired HIM without explanation…
    Are there any best-practices articles out there regarding RFP etiquette when it comes to pitching PR firms? I truly think the “radio silence” is partially due to ignorance and embarrassment.

  6. Maybe he thought he could just opt for a (very) short-term lease v. buy.