Mechanisms that Matter – Inside WPP | Ford’s revolutionary marketing model

How a process created on the factory floor over 70 years ago has transformed ops for the auto giant

Robert Guay (RG), Global Client Lead for the auto giant, tells Anna Hickey (AH) why adopting Lean methodology has unified client and agency talent in a unique way of working. Lean was born in car manufacturing in the 80s and focuses on maximising customer value while minimising waste. Combined with WPP Open, our AI-powered marketing operating system, it’s given the Ford team both the mindset and the tools to focus on the customer and drive efficiency and effectiveness in everything we deliver for Ford.

RG: Lean methodology has been a part of the auto business, particularly in manufacturing, for a long time. And at Ford, it's now also part of the marketing part of the business and everything they do. And what I would say is that while a little bit intimidating at first, to be forced to change behaviours, adopting Lean, and all of our leaders took Lean training in order to get up to speed, it gave us really a set of comprehensive tools that we use alongside our clients that, at the end of the day, really helps us clarify, focus and prioritise what we need to get done, including the tools that we all share in common to know quickly whether or not we're on track to get something done or whether we've slipped off track. It gets everyone on the same page at the same time, pulling in the same direction. And Leans ability to help our clients eliminate waste where things are not delivering outcomes has been hugely helpful to both the agency and the client.

AH: So, Robert, one of the things about running a scaled team is ensuring collaboration and consistency and ways of working and obviously at WPP, we do that through WPP Open, which gives us that consistent tech and data spine, but also means that everyone works consistently, starting with the consumer, no matter what the challenge or the brief that we are addressing is. Is that something you're seeing. 

RG: Yeah. For sure. And I think, maybe two or three years ago, as we the Ford team started to rethink about the process of working with our clients, we started to develop what we called sort of the MVP or minimum viable process to work with clients in order to simplify. And in doing that, we had taken a lot of time to think about how do we get to the centre of the customer of our client, clearly understanding the audiences, the insights related to them, and importantly, what data we were all using to make sure everyone working on this project that the client and at the agency were working off from the same set.

So we had developed as one of the key steps in our process, a data deep-dive to look at audiences. And since then, sort of at the same time, Open has been developing and coming to life, and it's fit really nicely into our process.

AH: One of the other things that I think is coming up more and more, is the commitment to continuous improvement in the model. Can you talk to us about that and whether that's something that's come up in your working with Ford over the last few years?

RG: Absolutely. One of the things that we're measured on by clients annually is efficiency and adding value. And those goals go up every single year. And that is the nature of continuous improvement. We're signing up to help our clients identify places where AI, data tech and automation can help provide the same level or better-quality content assets, programmes, for less cost. And it's part of what I think is our competitive advantage as WPP to be able to help clients identify the places in our network, in our infrastructure, and with our tools, because, you know, we're all doing it! WPP’s global client leaders share with each other methods, projects, programmes and ways of working that have built into it that continuous improvement. Because every single year we need to be a little bit more efficient than last year. So, it just gets built into the system. And again, I think our job as an agency is to help our clients make sure that we're not removing important parts of the process just in the name of cost cutting. And that's why the notion of focusing on waste becomes really important and becomes part of that continuous improvement.

AH: Absolutely! Great. Thank you so much, Robert. Really good to speak to you.

RG: Yeah. Happy to be here. Thank you.


Anna Hickey

WPP, Wavemaker

published on

02 May 2024



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