INTERNATIONAL: THE DECISION MAKERS/MARTIN PURIS - A believer in the democracy of ideas and the five-year plan/Martin Puris has achieved much, but, he admits, there is still room for improvement

By KAREN YATES, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 21 November 1997 12:00AM

Since Martin Puris publicly allotted himself five years for the task of forging a truly creative network out of the successful but pedestrian Lintas empire, it was natural to ask how things were going two years in. The answer, however, was surprisingly downbeat: ’It’s difficult to change anything. It takes time. It takes belief. I still think it’s a five-year job.’

Since Martin Puris publicly allotted himself five years for the

task of forging a truly creative network out of the successful but

pedestrian Lintas empire, it was natural to ask how things were going

two years in. The answer, however, was surprisingly downbeat: ’It’s

difficult to change anything. It takes time. It takes belief. I still

think it’s a five-year job.’



Puris is a New Yorker, right? A veteran who’s pulled himself up from

copywriter to head of a network in the toughest market on the globe. So

where’s the bullshit? Instead of hype I’m offered realism; and, as if to

reinforce the point, a polite reference to his storming dollars 700

million run of new business elicits only a faint, self-effacing

smile.



Lintas, he says, wasn’t very highly attuned to new business as a network

when he arrived. ’The way they originally got business was by hanging

around the halls of Unilever. But if you’ve started your own agency with

no new business at all it gives you a completely different approach,’ he

says.



This approach was to build a team of regional and subject specialists

right from day one of any pitch, a team that would meet regularly as the

review proceeded. ’That way you don’t get, for example, the media man

called in for the last five minutes of a meeting,’ he says. ’It’s not

that Lintas didn’t want to attract new business, it’s that they didn’t

know how to.’



And there have been other, more high-profile changes. The four titles of

’zone chairman’ have been killed off as Puris tried to break down the

fiefdoms that built up as the network originally expanded to service its

flagship Unilever account.


Instead, Puris has decreed the world be broken up into many more smaller

regions - for example, London is now part of Northern Europe - each run

by one of the agency bosses in the area. In this way, he says, the

chairman gets to know his region intimately and each of the agencies in

it.



Puris has already changed ’dozens’ of the top people in various

countries - notably, the UK, Germany, Singapore, Argentina and Sweden -

since he took the hot seat. Nevertheless he insists he’s not a

sweep-clean merchant.



’I scout out the people who think like I do - not the Cossack method of

reorganisation,’ he says.



He aims to transplant the successful philosophy he developed through 20

years of running his agency into Lintas.



In the early 70s, Puris was a talented young creative in the then New

York hotshop, Carl Alley. ’It was fun for a kid to run riot over the

account people,’ he remembers. But, as the years passed, he realised

Carl Alley could win almost any account it wanted because of its

creative work. But it couldn’t keep them. ’All that mattered was the

creative department,’ he recalls. ’We only ever got brilliant account

people by accident.’



So Puris and his former partner, Ralph Ammirati, left to set up an

agency in which all relevant disciplines would have an equal say. It was

a phenomenal creative success, but also hung on to its clients - in

BMW’s case for nearly 20 years.



Puris calls the way the agency worked a ’democracy of ideas’. By

expecting everybody to add to the process in equal amounts, he says,

everyone thinks much harder and you get a truly collaborative

result.



It’s a daunting task taking that kind of a rethink across 147 different

offices, each with their own individual culture. Progress has been made,

though. Billings have risen to dollars 775.4 million in 1996 - 6.6 per

cent up on the previous year - and the network has pulled in a Cannes

Grand Prix for Rolo.



But Puris acknowledges there is still work to be done. Still, as he says

of his first change at the network - prefixing Ammirati and Puris to its

name: ’Even if we haven’t changed yet, it’s a sign that we’re going

to.’



THE PURIS FILE

1960s   Copywriter with Young & Rubicam, Campbell-Ewald and NW Ayer

1970s   Teamed up with art director, Ralph Ammirati, to work for Carl

        Alley

1974    Breaks away with Ammirati, with support from Y&R, to found

        Ammirati & Puris in New York.

        BMW, Mastercard and George Bush’s election campaign followed over

        the years

1994    Agency bought out by Interpublic and merged with Lintas New York;

        Puris became the president and chief executive

1995    Puris made chairman, chief executive and chief creative officer

        of Lintas Worldwide; network’s name changes to Ammirati Puris

        Lintas



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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