CAMPAIGN INTERNATIONAL: DECISION MAKER: JEAN DE YTURBE - Standalone Bates plans to outperform its rivals/Jean de Yturbe intends the newly liberated Bates to continue on an upward slope, Karen Yates writes

Jean de Yturbe has two main ambitions this year. He is determined to beat Michael Bungey at golf and he wants Cordiant’s shares to outprice Saatchi & Saatchi. The first, he says, will be a long-term project, and he is practising on a private course near the family’s chateau in Normandy.

Jean de Yturbe has two main ambitions this year. He is determined

to beat Michael Bungey at golf and he wants Cordiant’s shares to

outprice Saatchi & Saatchi. The first, he says, will be a long-term

project, and he is practising on a private course near the family’s

chateau in Normandy.



The second, he claims, is a much easier nut to crack - perhaps by the

end of the year.



De Yturbe’s official title, which is group president of Bates Worldwide,

does little to convey his actual power. His patch stretches from

Scandinavia to South Africa via the main European markets, including the

UK. As such, he is a key architect of Bates’ drive to improve its

financial performance.



His plans in this direction are broadly in line with those of his

peers.



Non-mainstream advertising makes more money than above the line, so

there will be a faster move into diversified services.



Healthcare is also a money-maker, so there are plans afoot to build on

last year’s acquisition of Healthworld. Then, of course, there is the

internet.



In fact, Bates is, in many ways, turning in a good performance and its

last set of financial results were fairly robust. Pre-tax profits leapt

by almost a third last year to pounds 32.3 million, and revenues were up

10 per cent (Campaign, 10 March).



The stock exchange, though, is used to a rich diet of WPP and

Omnicom.



So if de Yturbe and Bungey - the chairman of Bates’ parent, Cordiant -

really want to impress Wall Street, they will need to pull something

much bigger out of the hat.



Take profit margins, for example. At Bates these rose significantly last

year, but only to 10 per cent, compared with the much more alluring 13

or so per cent sported by WPP. When you question why this is the case,

de Yturbe looks startled. ’But it took other agencies years to get

there,’ he cries. ’We have had only three.’



There you have a thread which runs through any financial discussions

about the Bates group. Although Bates has been around for years, and de

Yturbe has been running a good slice of it for nine years, he considers

the clock to have started ticking three years ago when the network broke

free from Saatchis.



So what has changed since Bates was launched as a separate entity on the

stock exchange in 1997? This is an invitation for one of those famous

French expansive gestures. The hands fly out and up as if hugging a bear

and out comes a very Gallic expostulation to which the English language

cannot do justice. ’Poeuffgghh,’ de Yturbe snorts, ’where do I start? At

Eurocom I could buy something in 15 minutes. In the early days at Bates

it was like ... like ... how long does it take to give birth to a baby

elephant? Two years? Everything was like a baby elephant. We were not

our own bosses.’



Now, of course, they are. The new, free Bates, while working well to

improve profits and revenues, has had its dark spots too - such as its

troubled London office. De Yturbe, as you might expect, is confident

that the London problem has been solved by the installation of a new

group chief executive, Toby Hoare, and the return of its former creative

director Andrew Cracknell.



’London needed to be re-motivated, they needed to have a clear view of

what to do and Toby and Andrew are doing that. We are going to become

very sexy very soon,’ he promises. That will not involve breaking up the

new integrated teams in London, however. ’Of course I will keep the

integration.



Some of our major clients, especially retail, are delighted by it,’ he

says.



An hour with de Yturbe and you wonder what drives him so hard. The son

of a wealthy French lawyer and married to an Argentinian heiress, he

clearly has no need to work and yet his career has spanned more than 30

years - at DDB, Eurocom and now Bates. Why does he push himself so hard?

He says: ’You have a lovely expression over here, do you not? You cannot

be half pregnant.’



I take it from this that he means that it’s impossible to do things by

halves.



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