Ford is to 'refocus pan-European advertising activities' as a key part of the company's European Transformation Strategy to improve profitability.

That means that, from the first quarter of 2001, all Ford of Europe advertising will be handled by the London-based advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather, part of the WPP Group. Previously the account was split between O&M and Young & Rubicam.

Murat Yalman, Ford of Europe's vice president, marketing, said: "With the expansion of our global brands we have been working to seek a logical alignment of all our activities, which led to this move. Our decision was further helped by the incorporation of Y&R within the WPP Group earlier this year.

"It now makes sense for us to focus Ford product marketing activities in Europe on one agency, as we already do in the US This will allow the development of all-important brand consistency, which is fundamental to our European business objectives over the coming years.

"The move will additionally yield a number of other benefits including cost savings and more efficient and creative use of available resources.

"We have enjoyed a long, healthy and productive relationship with both agencies in Europe, most recently demonstrated by the very successful Y&R Galaxy and O&M Transit campaigns."

This latest move builds on a strategy Ford implemented two years ago, when it successfully moved from a commission-based to fee based advertising operation.

"Focusing our creative resource and knowledge of the consumer into one agency will enable us to enhance definition and awareness of the Ford brand. Building equity in the brand is a vital component of the European Transformation Strategy," added Mr Yalman.

In an all-encompassing review of its advertising strategy, Ford Motor Company is focusing all of its activities globally with three WPP-owned agency networks - O&M, J.Walter Thompson and Y&R.

JWT will continue to handle Ford advertising in the U.S. and Y&R the Lincoln Mercury business. Mindshare are to continue as the company's sole European media agency and Impiric will continue to provide direct marketing and e-business support. O&M will be expanding their European operation to meet the new challenges.

Ford Vice President, Marketing, Sales and Service, Earl Hesterberg, said: "This… comes at a time when we are under enormous pressure to achieve a significant business transformation, which includes an ambitious programme to launch nine significant new [products] each year over the next five years. That means that the new team will have to hit the ground running in the New Year."