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
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
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
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
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
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.