CAMPAIGN INTERNATIONAL: DECISION MAKER - ARTHUR SELKOWITZ. DMB&B’s global cultural crusade gathers speed. Arthur Selkowitz has reorganised DMB&B to bring client services to the fore, Caroline Marshall writes

Someone who has made their name on Procter & Gamble has a couple of qualities, for sure. One is that they understand marketing strategy inside-out. The other is that, along the way, they have become adept at quantifying the most ephemeral elements of advertising- P&G is famous for compelling its agencies to jump through more quantitative hoops than a circus lion.

Someone who has made their name on Procter & Gamble has a couple of

qualities, for sure. One is that they understand marketing strategy

inside-out. The other is that, along the way, they have become adept at

quantifying the most ephemeral elements of advertising- P&G is famous

for compelling its agencies to jump through more quantitative hoops than

a circus lion.



So it is surprising to meet Arthur Selkowitz, the chairman and chief

executive of the MacManus-owned DMB&B Communications, and find him

banging on about agency culture, one of the most subjective and

unverifiable topics of all.



’The cultural evolution of DMB&B is my priority,’ he says. ’It’s

necessary because all the rhetoric about global marketing is beginning

to come true. Over the last three to five years we’ve seen the major

multinationals realise that to improve their profitability and

productivity they need more co-ordination in their own organisations. If

a company doesn’t take a good idea and move it around the world quickly,

then their competitors certainly will.



’This is encouraging us to become more client and globally focused.

We’re not necessarily looking to produce global campaigns, but we want

to create work that can travel.’



He calls the restructure of DMB&B Europe a ’work in progress’. He says:

’We are looking to enable our senior managers to become more

client-focused by stripping away administration tasks and regionalising

finance and administration.’



Selkowitz’s masterplan seems to make sense when you consider that P&G is

in the process of shifting its brands out of the sister MacManus

network, Ayer, and into DMB&B. But his plans may be greeted less warmly

by country managers, for whom the good of the region always used to be

secondary to their own bottom line.



’Our managers have noted the change within client companies from less

focus on individual countries to global or pan-regional solutions,’

Selkowitz counters. ’So we’ve reworked our compensation structure and

encouraged lead offices to take responsibility for the region.



But, sure, they have concerns: for example, our Brussels office used to

work on P&G, but following recent changes at the company and within our

network, it now doesn’t.



On the other hand it has a local client, Konica, on which it could

become the lead European agency.’



Selkowitz began his career as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward & Co. He

moved on to Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, an agency with a reputation for

good creative work, where he worked in various media and account

capacities from 1966 to 1971. He spent the next 11 years at Benton &

Bowles, rising to senior vice-president/account director on P&G, General

Foods and Beatrice Foods. He left to co-found his own agency in New York

- Penchina, Selkowitz Inc - before rejoining DMB&B in 1990 as executive

vice-president.



Five years later he moved to Hong Kong to run the network’s Asia Pacific

region, then returned to run North America, before becoming overall

chairman and chief executive in 1997. He is responsible for 89 offices,

mostly wholly owned, in 70 countries and runs the ninth-largest global

agency with 1997 billings of dollars 6.9 billion.



While raising some questions about how long it can remain a key player

when the trend is towards global consolidation in the industry, the fact

that MacManus is privately owned allows Selkowitz a certain freedom to

pursue his goals without Wall Street concerns: ’As our competitors have

access to public funds, we constantly evaluate our status,’ he

admits.



’But there are advantages to being one of the few remaining private

groups - it means we can act in the best interests of our clients.’



Along with making DMB&B a major player in a changing business

environment, Selkowitz also wants to strengthen the network’s creative

standing. He admits he’s got some way to go: ’Whenever we show our reel

to an existing or prospective client, the comment I get is ’oh your

work’s a lot better than I had anticipated’. That pisses me off a lot -

we are a captive of our own name.’



A small-built, thoughtful and straight-talking man - definitely an

Artie, as his managers call him, not an Arthur - 55-year-old Selkowitz

is far from the caricature of the volatile and capricious New York

adman. ’I’ve always tried to be my own person,’ he says, ’to the extent

that someone once said to me ’you want it all, to be liked and to do a

good job’ and, well, I guess I do.’



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