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Joel Ewanick, GM Ad Chief Who Quit Facebook, Ousted

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Joel Ewanick, GM's former head of marketing, at the L.A. auto show last year.
Joel Ewanick, GM's former head of marketing, at the L.A. auto show last year.

General Motors fired the ad man who quit Facebook and spurned the Superbowl because he "failed to meet the expectations the company has of its employees," spokesman Greg Martin said in an email.

Marketing chief Joel Ewanick was fired for failing to properly vet the finances involving a soccer sponsorship, presumably a deal with Manchester United in the U.K., according to the Wall Street Journal . Ewanick linked to the story from his Twitter account.

"It has been a privilege & honor to work with the GM team and to be a small part of Detroit's turnaround," Ewanick said on Twitter. "I wish everyone at GM all the best."

The automaker announced in May it had signed a 5-year sponsorship deal with U.K. soccer team Manchester United, a deal that was part of the push to make GM's Chevy brand a worldwide name. Manchester United has 659 million fans globally.

In an interview following the Manchester United announcement, Ewanick told The Huffington Post that the automaker was focused on making sure every penny it spends on advertising offered a good return on investment. Although he did not say how much the Manchester United sponsorship would cost GM, he said it gave the company the ability to reach customers in far-flung markets spanning the globe from Thailand to Brazil.

Considered a marketing golden child by some, Ewanick helped lift sales at up-and-coming Hyundai by offering a buyback program in 2009, when unemployment was on the rise and the car market was slumping. Hyundai was the only automaker during that time period to post market share gains, while the rest of the industry saw its share shrink.

Under Ewanick's leadership, GM made several radical decisions. It pulled advertising from Facebook just days before the social networking company staged its IPO. And a few days later, it announced it was ceasing advertising during the Super Bowl.

Two months ago, GM turned to a new advertising agency called Commonwealth, a partnership between Goodby Silverstein & Partners and McCann Erickson Worldwide. This came after it dropped its former agency, Campbell-Ewald, which held the account for decades.

The cost of Super Bowl advertising was way too high, Ewanick told HuffPost. The automaker had seen much more traffic and interest during the 2012 Super Bowl following a video it did with the band OK Go, which showed the band driving a Chevy Sonic through a course that made sounds. "And that didn't even run during the game," he said. "We'll find ways to take advantage of the event" without spending excessively, he said.

Facebook, too, didn't seem like a good return on investment, he said, because it intruded in on people while they were socializing with their friends.

"It's like having a night out with the family and someone comes up to your table and says, 'Hey, I've got a car I want to sell you,' " he said. "It doesn't work."

GM says Alan Batey, vice president of U.S. sales and service, will take over Ewanick's role on an interim basis.

The move marks a turbulent year of executive turnover at the automaker, which is expected to post disappointing second-quarter earnings results later this week.

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