Allan must preserve culture of Group M memberagencies

WPP's Group M has certainly been the firm focus of attention in the agency world in recent days. The structure of its UK team was finally unveiled last week, leading to more than a flutter of interest from rival agencies and media owners.

The line-up of Group M's management team needs some explanation, partly because of the messy way the news of Group M's structure has gradually leaked out over a period of months and partly because some reports about its UK structure may have been misleading.

At first glance, the structure seems to reflect a MediaCom takeover of Group M management spots, under its UK chief executive, Steve Allan, who was, of course, the chief executive of MediaCom. Both managing director trading jobs at Group M (Mark Collins becomes the managing director of broadcast and Steve Goodman the managing director of print trading) have gone to MediaCom directors.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Nick Theakstone, previously the managing director of Group M Trading and investment director of MindShare. Reports had suggested Theakstone, in his new role as the Group M chief operating officer, had effectively been sidelined away from trading into developing non-trading areas.

Allan refutes this. He says: "Nick's role is to oversee the management of the trading teams but not the day-to-day management of the trading."

According to Allan, Theakstone sits above Collins, (who was rewarded with the Group M role after being linked with the head of media job at Carat) and Goodman in the structure. But Collins and Goodman will be free to crack on with the deal-making. The former MindShare man will also work with Allan to develop new areas for trading and research. Quite how this translates into reality remains to be seen.

Group M is not being positioned as a mere trading or negotiations operation, but rather as a media parent company for its three networks (Mediaedge:cia is also involved alongside MediaCom and MindShare). Allan says the hope is to make savings on generic research products that all three agencies buy, plus on backroom stuff such as IT, in order to "reinvest money in having the best brains and best people working on clients' business".

An even bigger challenge will be to achieve Allan's goal of preserving the brands and culture of Group M's constituent agencies. But Allan, who created and preserved a strong culture at MediaCom, has a good chance of pulling this off.

As for Allan himself, he reports to Group M's European executive committee, headed by the former MindShare man Kelly Clark, and ultimately to Group M's global boss, Irwin Gotlieb. So maybe MindShare's influence will be felt to a greater degree than some expect.

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