By Arun Sudhaman

PARIS: Automotive alliance Renault-Nissan is to combine the marketing and communications functions at both of its brands.

The ambitious decision means a new role for Renault-Nissan global comms director Simon Sproule, who relocates to Japan to become corporate VP for Nissan’s new global marketing communications team.

Sproule rejoins Nissan less than two years after he left the carmaker to become Microsoft’s global head of corporate comms. He then departed the software giant after just five months, moving to Paris for the role at the Renault-Nissan alliance.

At Nissan he will report to Andy Palmer, SVP of global planning and program management, who has been put in charge of the new global marketing comms team.

Renault announced a similar slew of changes earlier this month, with global marketing SVP Stephen Norman becoming chief marketing and communications officer.

Sproule told the Holmes Report that that the moves follow a comprehensive review, led by Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn,  of how the alliance brands manage reputation, comms, marketing, branding and digital.

“Bottom line, the two companies are making a pretty big move,” said Sproule. “It will be challenging to implement – but ultimately if you look long-term it makes sense.”

While Renault-Nissan is not the first company to appoint a chief marketing and communications officer, its decision to merge the underlying teams remains relatively rare.

“We looked at a lot of brands,” said Sproule. “What we noticed were that relatively few companies have made the full step to integration – they often go halfway there and then often stop.”

Sproule added that the moves will help eliminate the “ridiculous argument over who owns marketing and PR.”

“This isn’t about PR going away,” he said. “In the future, what companies are going to be looking for is people who can do both.”

Other changes at Renault include the shift of global comms head Marie-Francoise Damesin to a new role as SVP of human resources.

Norman’s deputy, meanwhile, will be current corporate information VP Frederique Le Greves.