Campbell Ewald CEO Jim Palmer fired

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Campbell Ewald CEO Jim Palmer has been fired by parent company Interpublic Group amid a racist email scandal.

The New York-based advertising conglomerate announced the termination Friday morning in a two-sentence statement to investors that announced Campbell Ewald President Kevin Wertz would take control of the Detroit-based advertising agency effective immediately.

IPG spokesman Thomas Cunningham declined to comment further.

Interpublic didn’t give a reason for the unexpected firing, but it came days after Adweek’s AgencySpy blog revealed that a white creative leader at the agency’s San Antonio office had sent an email in October 2015 inviting employees to take part in a “Ghetto Day.”

“Also please share with the teams that today is officially Ghetto Day in the SA, and we’re inviting our Big D homeb****es to cycle in and pop a freak with us,” the email said via Adweek. “Ghetto music, Malt 45s at lunch, and of course, drugs and prostitution are legal all day until close of business. Word, my cerebral gangsters.”

That creative director was fired after the email was revealed Tuesday, four months after the initial incident, Adweek reported. But in wake of the incident, financial services provider USAA — a major Campbell Ewald client — said it canceled its contract with the company, which had been its agency of record since 2008.

“USAA has given Campbell Ewald notice of contract termination,” said USAA public affairs director Roger Wildermuth in a statement to The Detroit News.

“We will be searching for a new agency that aligns with USAA’s culture and core values.”

Interpublic confirmed USAA would no longer be a Campbell Ewald client, but said the insurance and financial service firm could remain one of its clients.

“USAA remains a valued IPG client,” reads a company statement.

“We plan to transition our USAA team into a standalone, purpose-built entity over the next few months, so as to assure continuity in the outstanding, business-building programs we deliver for this client.”

Wildermuth said the company has not signed any agreements to award the terminated business from Campbell Ewald to another IPG company.

He said USAA has “other relationships with IPG” and it continues to work with the company on a “transition plan” but declined to elaborate.

Campbell Ewald, a 105-year-old Metro Detroit company, has arguably been on a downward spiral since losing its cornerstone client Chevrolet in 2010 — an account that it had since 1919.

Following Chevrolet, other major accounts to drop Campbell Ewald in recent years included the United States Postal Service, U.S. Navy and Cadillac.

Campbell Ewald lost GM’s Cadillac luxury car brand in 2014 to Publicis Worldwide — the largest creative agency of IPG — after the brand announced it was moving its headquarters from Detroit to New York.

Cadillac dropped Campbell Ewald less than a year after the ad agency moved its headquarters and roughly 500 employees from Warren to Detroit.

Palmer had been with the agency for about 25 years. He replaced Bill Ludwig, who was fired by IPG in 2013.

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