CAMPAIGN INTERNATIONAL: DECISION MAKER JIM ALLMAN - Diplomatic service from the APL man in New York/Jim Allman is planning a softly softly approach for the troubled US shop

Jim Allman is not sure which job he likes best - managing Ammirati Puris Lintas’s global Unilever account, or his new task of running the network’s New York office. But then, you get the distinct impression that Allman does not like to say anything that may offend anyone.

Jim Allman is not sure which job he likes best - managing Ammirati

Puris Lintas’s global Unilever account, or his new task of running the

network’s New York office. But then, you get the distinct impression

that Allman does not like to say anything that may offend anyone.



’I moved to the UK to run Unilever for two years and I really loved

that.



I know it sounds goofy. They are a fabulous client and I’m going to miss

them immensely,’ he says, before adding: ’I can’t disguise the fact that

I am delighted to be running an agency of 700 people.’ He concludes: ’I

don’t know which I prefer.’



Allman is popular, and it is easy to see why. He is clearly a good

listener - you have to be to run an account the size of Unilever.

William Eccleshare, chairman of APL London, says: ’He has enormous charm

and style. He is very bright, passionate and a great team

motivator.’



And a well-loved, good listener is exactly what APL’s New York office

needs right now. Allman’s appointment is the result of the sudden exit

of Rick Hadala, who was chairman and chief executive of the agency for

just six months. Hadala, from a non-advertising background (McKinsey),

was brought in by the APL network chief executive, Martin Puris, to

improve its strategic offering and to fend off the ever-encroaching

threat of management consultants.



In attempting to establish a more strategy-rich APL, Hadala is said to

have offended, alienated and unsettled staff at the New York agency. A

restructure involved two-thirds of the agency’s management changing

their roles and the exit of several members of staff. As one industry

observer says: ’Jim Allman has been chosen to come in and calm it all

down.’



It won’t be the first time Allman has been called in to rescue a

struggling agency. He was poached from J. Walter Thompson in 1993 to

turn around APL’s fortunes in



Milan. Allman says: ’I had to restructure and bring in a new generation

of advertising professionals. It worked out really well and they have

gone on to do a super job.’ Eccleshare enthuses: ’He’s got a very good

track record. He transformed APL Milan. He did it by creating a team.

Jim’s never failed in anything he’s done.’



Allman’s international experience goes back to 1982 when he opened a

Bangkok



office for JWT, before running Unilever’s food and personal care account

for JWT in London. After his stint in Milan for APL, he moved to New

York, where he ran the



network’s Latin American operation. In 1997 he became global account

director on Unilever for APL.



Abrasiveness is not at all Allman’s style. He says: ’There will be some

changes, but radical ones? I don’t think so.’ Eccleshare concurs: ’Jim

is not a macho manager who comes in and makes a lot of noise. He does it

by stealth, but without people noticing.’



Allman admits that there are problems that need solving in New York: ’We

have gone through change here in terms of



the head of the agency and the creatives. Some people are unclear where

we’re going directionally. The consultancy element has confused

people.’



His solution appears simple: ’It’s all about producing great work and

the best brand thinking. I think we need leadership that will bring

inspired thinking which is beautifully executed.’



He is nevertheless keen to bolster the agency’s strategic offering, but

doesn’t intend to be as gung-ho about it as his predecessor. ’Strategic

planning is the secret weapon of the agency,’ he says.



Giving the agency direction is not the only mountain Allman will have to

climb. He will have to stay in his network chief’s good books. Puris,

industry observers say, has a reputation for letting his senior staff

fall in and out of favour: Hadala is one example; the co-creative

directors, Mark Johnson and Tom Nelson, who left the agency after a

two-year stint, another.



Allman is optimistic: ’Will I last? I’d put money on it. It’s probably

the only major network where the guy whose name is over the door is

still at the agency. He’s in the DNA of the agency.’



Allman’s gradual approach to change may be just what the New York agency

needs right now, but if it doesn’t deliver quite



visible results, observers fear that Puris may begin to look for his

next golden boy.



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