With former Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne now gone due to dire health issues, the future of Paris-born Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Olivier Francois, 56, has been called into question. He was promoted to his current position by Marchionne back in 2011, and in the time since, Advertising Age reports, he’s undoubtedly enjoyed a lot of freedom, allowing him to spend big bucks on advertising campaigns featuring high-profile celebrities from Eminem to Clint Eastwood.
“I’d be shocked if [Francois] were to stay past Sergio,” an anonymous former FCA employee told Ad Age in an interview this month.
The relationship Francois enjoyed with Marchionne, which permitted him to go big on bold, impactful campaigns like Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” line of ads with Eminem, and to climb quickly quickly through the ranks from relative obscurity, might not continue under FCA’s new CEO, Mike Manley. Manley “doesn’t share Olivier’s passion for world-class advertising,” one agency executive told Ad Age, noting that the new CEO might at leas “bring more discipline and professionalism into FCA’s relationships with agencies.”
“I’m beyond hands-on,” Francois admitted in a June interview. “I’m literally a pain in the ass. I approach each commercial as a little jewel, a little piece of art, a little piece of myself.”
That said, the CMO insisted back in June that he had no plans to depart, even with Marchionne then on the brink of retirement. Asked about the possibility of his departure now that Marchionne has been prematurely replaced in his role by Manley, an FCA spokesperson referred back to Francois’ statement in that interview.
Pete DeLorenzo, a former auto marketing executive and current EIC at Autoextremist, said that the effect Manley’s promotion to CEO will have on the CMO “remains to be seen,” but that as far as he can tell, “I expect it to be business as usual for Francois, at least for the foreseeable future.”