CAMPAIGN DIRECT: ISSUE PUBLICIS - Publicis veterans get used to their new territories/It’s musical chairs as the Publicis Group’s below-the-line reshuffle takes shape

By ELEANOR TRICKETT,, Friday, 16 July 1999 12:00AM

A couple of big cheeses in the Publicis Group have been wandering around unfamiliar offices in recent weeks, staff telephone lists and maps to the coffee machine in hand, trying to remember not to stroll into their old buildings of a Monday morning.

A couple of big cheeses in the Publicis Group have been wandering

around unfamiliar offices in recent weeks, staff telephone lists and

maps to the coffee machine in hand, trying to remember not to stroll

into their old buildings of a Monday morning.

Publicis Dialog’s new chairman, Chris Parry, for example, admits having

trouble remembering to say ’Dee-a-log’, rather than the more obvious

’Dye-a-log’. And many’s the occasion that he refers to his ’old’ agency,


- where he was also chairman - as ’us’, rather than ’them’.

Mike Croft, FCA!’s new boss - formerly the chief executive of Publicis

Technology - seems to be settling in a little more easily, though he

admits that he’s not very good with names and is worried about offending

someone he really ought to know.

To the rest of us, the moves are reasonably straightforward. Publicis

Dialog needed a new boss after the sudden, shady departure of its chief

executive, Fred Kuys, earlier this year, and rather than looking outside

the group, Parry, from sister network FCA!, was picked for the job.

Parry’s move made way for Croft, deemed by the group’s chiefs to be

perfect for the next phase of FCA!’s development. Add Giles Keeble,

formerly the creative director of the Open Agency, to the mix as

creative director of Publicis Technology; split off the

business-to-business accounts and put them into FCA!; evolve Publicis

Technology into a new-media shop, and we’re pretty much there.

The Publicis Group shake-up has left some a little bewildered, however,

including Parry, who moved from Campaign’s direct agency of the year to

a shop that lies at the beck and call of its above-the-line sister and,

to boot, has been rife with personnel problems. If Parry is delighted

about the move, he’s doing a splendid job of hiding it.

But it would be unfair to question his commitment, as he has pledged to

make Dialog live up to its potential. And it is also a little unfair to

belittle Dialog for suffering the dubious affliction of handling

shedloads of Publicis Group business, including its flagship Renault and

Asda accounts.

Parry is keen to point out that he wasn’t forced to move to Dialog, it

was one of a handful of options. ’I have been a Publicis Group person

for 20 years, on and off. I was picked because no-one else within the

group was right for the job. They saw what I did with FCA! in Paris and

London - develop a tremendous brand - and they want that in Dialog.’

Rick Bendel, Publicis’s UK chairman, explains that the rearrangements

are part of a rationalisation across the group. ’When I took over, it

was clear that our vertical companies, Publicis Financial, Publicis

Technology, Publicis Advertising and FCA!, had nothing to do with the

market,’ he says.

So Publicis decided to make a shift from companies that specialise by

market sector to companies that specialise in disciplines. ’The decision

was to build an integrated network and call it Publicis. The best thing

was to run it on start-ups, and give each one a group client to be

getting on with. That way, you get the entrepreneurial skills of a

start-up but with a large, integrated, group feel,’ Bendel explains.

So where does FCA! fit in? Being part of a separate network - BMZ


- up until now meant that whatever happened inside the Publicis network

had little or no effect.

All that changed when Bendel was recently given full control of all

Publicis Group’s interests in the UK including, for the first time,

FCA!. Much glee and rubbing of hands on Bendel’s part, no doubt, as his

new toy acquired more and more value with each new-business win, each

gold creative award and the accolade of Campaign’s direct agency of the


Bendel says he had identified a gap in the media-neutral market in the

UK, and decided to rejig FCA! to take advantage of that. By removing

around half of Publicis Technology’s clients - the business-to-business

ones - and putting them into FCA!, he believes the creative agency top

ten is now within sight.

And this is where Croft comes in. A strategic whizz with group

experience and an ebullient demeanour proved irresistible to Bendel, who

predicts that Croft’s relationships with the executive creative

directors, Shaun McIlrath and Ian Harding, will be dynamite.

Croft himself says: ’Publicis marked out the three of us - three people

who are sparky, troublesome and challenging - and thought it would be

fun to put us together and see what would happen.’

Croft also agrees that splitting Publicis Technology into two was the

best thing for it. ’Over the past two years, Publicis Technology was two

different agencies; the robust and bright business-to-business side

which came through our acquisition of SMI, and the Publicis side, which

was a fledgling interactive shop. There was very little crossover

between the two. This almost became a constraint on our growth, so now

they have separated, they can be marketed without confusion.’

Bringing in Keeble was also evidence of an agency keen to differentiate

itself from the vast number of new-media shops run by callow youths with

superb technical skills but very little creative and strategic


Bendel explains: ’We’re not here for interactive fulfilment - that’s

IBM’s job. Giles has been brought in to generate creative ways of

exploiting the communication vehicles.’

Which leaves Dialog. Bendel admits that it has never quite lived up to

its potential despite the pool of talent at its disposal. The agency

will now invest more in its creative product, and Parry’s relationship

with George Boyter, Dialog’s creative director, will be decisive in

raising the agency’s profile. ’If a new chairman doesn’t believe in

creativity, nothing will happen,’ Parry says. ’FCA! became what it did

because of my relationship with Shaun and Ian, and it will be the same

with George here.’

However, Bendel and Parry obviously have more talking to do before the

direction of Dialog is secured. While Parry is realistic about new

business targets - he says: ’We’re not about to start pitching for

pounds 10 million accounts; at FCA! it took years to get past the pounds

1 million mark’ - the two have different ideas over positioning.

Bendel says: ’I want it to be our relationship marketing agency, using

all channels to talk to people directly. It is not an advertising

agency, nor should it be. We don’t want - or need - two FCA!s.’ Parry,

however, wants a total communications agency.

Furthermore, while Parry is girding his loins to pitch against FCA!

Bendel says this will never happen. FCA! won’t pitch for direct

marketing-only clients, and Dialog will never be a one-stop shop.

The general consensus seems to be that this is a demotion for Parry.

Is this the case? ’What do you think?’ he replies coyly, then agrees

with Campaign’s diplomatic reply that it’s up to him to make sure that

it’s not.

Edited by Eleanor Trickett

Tel: 0181-267 4901


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