Jeremy Lee: There are sure signs of maturity from the meerkat agency

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 04 October 2012 08:00AM

Following a week when the career prospects of two media agency employees became the subject of such fevered speculation, the peripatetic and mercurial Vodafone marketer Clare Sheikh helped draw a little of the pus from the sorry and poisonous affair with her mysterious departure from the mobile operator.

Jeremy Lee: There are sure signs of maturity from the meerkat agency

Vodafone moved quickly to replace Sheikh - formerly of the AA, ITV and RSA - but her brief period spent in a sort of professional Vodafone purgatory, the subsequent nature of her exit and the statements that surrounded it left many tantalising questions unanswered.

She's an intriguing one, Sheikh, but I'm sure it won't be that long before she lands at another big client job, where she will continue to provide the business, and her agency partners, with much to gossip about again. And, in her favour, at least she provides some colour and a touch of glamour to the traditionally rather torpid world of client marketers.

The advertising industry has just welcomed its newest agency chief executive in the shape of Michael Sugden, who was put in charge of VCCP's London operations. At face value, Sugden hardly appears be the most charismatic of agency leaders (perhaps more at home at a client company than an agency, you might assume) but, in this case, appearances are largely deceptive. A barrel of laughs? Maybe not - but it's still good when good things happen to good people. And he's one of the good guys.

It was unfortunate timing, then, that his elevation, and that of the hitherto unknown quantity Andrew Peake to managing director, coincided with a review of the Carling business that VCCP snatched from Beattie McGuinness Bungay just last year. Nonetheless, a successful retention will ensure that Sugden, and his new management team, can instantly answer those competitors eyeing up the strength of his mettle.

For VCCP, Sugden's promotion and the creation of a VCCP London board and a group board in the tenth year of its existence seem to suggest a position of greater clarity. VCCP has now reached a maturity where its founding partners should focus on building a network of sorts and developing a suite of differentiated offerings rather than micro-managing its UK operation. The first task still seems to be a work in progress, but at least VCCP, within Chime, now offers a range of interesting - and potentially attractive to possible suitors - services beyond just advertising.

And returning to the theme of potentially awkward personnel issues, the departure of the colourful Chime chairman Tim Bell following his purchase of its PR business earlier this year means that one major obstacle to WPP's potential acquisition of the company has been removed.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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