Cannes offers a reminder that Brits are still at the top
"When it comes to choosing someone to steer prominent American media properties, the answer is often delivered in a proper English accent," The New York Times wrote last week, citing the growing number of Brits holding top roles in the US.
The paper referred to Piers Morgan’s successful takeover from Larry King, Gerard Baker editing The Wall Street Journal, Mark Thompson running The New York Times and many more.
And last week, in Cannes, it was the quintessentially English tones of Miles Young that rang out most clearly on La Croisette – his network, Ogilvy & Mather, taking the festival by storm and winning a laudable 155 gongs.
It was also a reminder that while Britain may no longer dominate the ad world’s creative agenda, British executives may be growing in stature on the global stage.
While Britain may no longer dominate the ad world’s creative agenda, British executives may be growing in stature
Young, 54, certainly did himself no harm with some great work emanating from Ogilvy shops around the world. And Young is – much to his annoyance – increasingly backed to succeed Sir Martin Sorrell, 68, as the WPP boss. The more immediate question facing the Oxbridge-educated pair is whether they should continue to invest a rumoured $7 million on Cannes each year, in what may become a case of diminishing returns.
Andrew Robertson, the 49-year-old global boss of BBDO, had a less auspicious Cannes. Despite pulling in 80-odd awards (similar to last year’s haul), the global network traditionally most associated with creativity trailed in Ogilvy’s wake. But despite also losing the huge Gillette account to WPP’s Grey earlier this year, Robertson’s stock remains high on the world stage. Since then, BBDO has picked up Bud Light and Emirates in North America and Tourism Australia: close to $500 million in combined media spend (although he confided in me: "I’m always worried about the numbers").
And then there’s David Jones, the 47-year-old chief executive of Havas and Havas Media. Though a tad smooth for some, Jones is an increasingly important spokesman for the global ad industry – his One Young World initiative having captured the imagination of many blue-chip CEOs. Few would bet against Jones landing an even bigger job in Madison Avenue or Mayfair.
So, as McCann Erickson’s London CEO leaves Blighty this week to take over as the network’s US president, he is climbing an increasingly familiar ladder for British executives.
The New York Times puts British media executives’ success in America down to a more frank and "adversarial" style. I’m not sure this applies to the aforementioned admen, but they certainly share a steely ambition that chimes with today’s networked industry.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk
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