The latest chapter of the Joel Ewanick saga is unfolding courtesy of Bloomberg. Our long-suffering marketing chief appears to have been sacked in part because he committed the heinous crime of buying cheap furniture.
The first, and apparently most serious charge leveled against Ewanick
“…a whistle-blower stepped forward and the Detroit-based company determined Ewanick was spreading the price of the agreement with English soccer team Manchester United among several different marketing budgets to avoid his boss’s spending limits, the people said. When confronted, Ewanick denied it, they said.”
Horse-trading of this sort is nothing new in large corporations. The Manchester United deal was an astute move given the audience involved (said to be 5 times that of the Super Bowl) and the role it would play in elevating Chevrolet’s status in markets like Europe and Asia.
Even though the target market was spot on, the notorious contempt many Americans have for soccer may have led to poor optics; spending millions of taxpayer dollars to sponsor a soccer team, rather than the Superbowl, may have been poor optics, especially in an election year.
This line of thinking appears to have been poison for Ewanick during his GM tenure. Dan Gorrell, president of consulting firm AutoStrategem told the news service
“While Joel was a risk-taker and big-picture kind of guy, he was not real concerned about the details and that indeed may have been his downfall …his leaving may suggest that GM will take a more conservative, business-as-usual approach in the future.”
An exmple of this sort of thinking? Ewanick committed the sin of not spending more than $2,000 of his $50,000 budget for office furniture – something that Bloomberg charitably categorized as “…an early example of Ewanick going around normal channels…”. These sorts of idiosyncracies, as well as using four-letter words in public while conversing with one of GM’s ad partners, led GM CEO Dan Akerson to make Ewanick display the “Farley award”, “… a mock-up of Ford’s blue oval logo that has “Farley” instead of “Ford” in the center…” as punishment for his cursing.
Farley, as we all remember, refers to Jim Farley, the Ford marketing chief who famously said “Fuck GM.” If I were Joel Ewanick, I’d have said the same thing when confronted with this puerile grandstanding.