Monday, July 30, 2012

Off the Reservation

So who at GM was responsible for pulling the company’s advertising money away from Facebook? The Wall Street Journal told me so today. The man was Joel Ewanick, then the company’s global marketing executive. The Journal’s story tells us that Ewanick was fired—evidently for “failing to properly vet the financial details of a European soccer-sponsorship deal.” Did his actions regarding Facebook play a role. Oh, no! Oh, no! Not the least of it. But Ewanick’s talking to the WSJ about that action, before the Facebook IPO was launched “didn’t go over well among the executives in GM’s top ranks,” the Journal tells us. A European soccer-sponsorship deal? Really? Or was the board just digging for something—anything—to rid itself of a man who was “polarizing,” a “glass breaker,” and a “firebrand”?

Nothing wrong with pulling money from an advertiser—but making GM look like a maverick, making it seem disrespectful of the gods of Social-Media, why that will start somebody digging into European soccer sponsorships.

Reminds me of another polarizing firebrand at GM, Ross Perot. He joined the board in 1984 when GM bought Electronic Data Systems and Perot became GM’s largest stockholder. From his board position, Perot had a look-see. Soon he was in the public media criticizing GM’s ways. Board members don’t do that, Ross. Phrases like “nuke the GM system” and “teaching an elephant to tapdance” reverberated in the media—until, in 2007, the board decided to repurchase all of Perot’s stock for $700 million and to send him back into the wilderness where firebrands belong. I got these facts from an old Time Magazine story (here).

Will we learn, in days to come, that GM has once more discovered that a presence on Facebook “has been shown to be helpful to reach a vital audience”? Wouldn’t be surprised. As for Ewanick, I don’t think he will just disappear.

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