’A love affair,’ laughs Jerry Judge, the ebullient new president of
Lowe & Partners Worldwide, grabbing a quiet moment in his London office,
’to quote from Annie Hall, is like a shark. You keep going forward or
Judge has certainly been true to Woody Allen’s maxim. During his 28-year
career, he’s taken the helm of three of London’s major agencies - Bartle
Bogle Hegarty, Young & Rubicam and Lowe Howard-Spink - and proved
himself a deft and resilient manager.
When he was made chief executive of Lowe & Partners Europe in 1997, he
oversaw 20 countries. At the beginning of this year, that figure almost
doubled. His new position - created by Frank Lowe as part of a major
restructure of Lowe & Partners Worldwide - puts him in charge of 38
countries, and rising.
Lowe & Partners Worldwide has been a long time in development, beginning
with the acquisition of the Campbell-Ewald agency in 1983. In January,
Frank Lowe announced that his creation would take the moniker ’global’.
’We recognised,’ Lowe explains, ’that by the end of 1999, our main
advertising arm would have become a truly global network. We therefore
set about putting in place a group of people who could manage the next
phase of the network’s development.’
Judge, he explains, with his ’enormous enthusiasm and energy’ was just
the man for the job. But he will have to share the worldwide burden with
his old Lowe Howard-Spink mucker and veteran copywriter, Adrian Holmes,
who will ensure that creative output remains up to scratch around the
It was important, Lowe says, that Judge and Holmes served their
apprenticeships before taking on worldwide responsibility. ’You can’t
just take someone who’s run an office in London or New York and say ’now
run a worldwide network’. There are a thousand lessons to learn,’ he
And some of those lessons have become all too clear over the past few
months. In New York, for example, Lowe & Partners/SMS underwent
something of a crisis following the loss of Diet Coke to Weiden &
Kennedy and a messy public parting with its former president, Robert
Kantor. In January, it also lost Mercedes-Benz’s dollars 125 million
There have been numerous issues of conflict around the world, but Judge
feels he can deal with them: ’My main job is conflict - managing it and
Lowe & Partners Worldwide looks after major clients such as Braun,
Coca-Cola, General Motors, UDV and Saab. Claimed billings amount to
dollars 4 billion, but last year that ranked the agency 13th among the
major networks. So Judge may have his work cut out if he’s to make an
impression against giants such as Young & Rubicam, McCann-Erickson and
Ogilvy & Mather.
What’s more, some critics argue that because many Lowes offices are not
wholly-owned, the network cannot claim to be 100 per cent consistent.
But Judge rejects that line of argument.
’We are different to the McCanns of this world, who are all things to
all people. We do not want to be that,’ he says. ’I believe that just as
there were creative domestic agencies ten or 15 years ago, so we will
build the most creative global network. We would like to be in the top
three by reputation and the top ten by size, everywhere.’
The network, he explains, is about teaming up with like-minded partners,
agencies who have actively chosen to work with Lowes. ’People who are
attracted to each other usually have a lot in common. When agencies sign
up under the Lowes flag, it’s a precondition to being good, anyway.’
If there is one thing that worries him, it is the network’s profile.
’We have under-marketed ourselves as a brand,’ he admits. ’We are not as
famous worldwide as we should be.’ But he’s confident that he won’t be
troubled by younger competitors snapping at his heels: ’Things have
changed so quickly. I think it will be very hard for another network to
come through after us.’