THE CLIENT CATALYSTS: ANN FRANCKE - Ann Francke breaks the mould of the average Mars marketer. She is open, creatively led and keen on change

Alien life forms on the Red Planet have a reputation for being more

communicative than managers at the other Mars closer to home. So it's a

real result when Ann Francke, one of the multinational's brightest

rising stars, agrees to talk.



But it's only when she arrives at Campaign's photoshoot with Miss Kit,

her capricious silver tabby beautiful and imperious enough for any

Whiskas commercial, that you realise this is an altogether different

kind of Martian.



European vice-president of petcare marketing she may be, but Francke has

an instinct for apposite visuals that can help bring messages to

life.



Perhaps it's something to do with the fact she's dabbled in journalism

in the past and doesn't rule out writing again in the future.



But this is also the woman whose eye for the grand gesture persuaded her

erstwhile employer, Procter & Gamble, to shell out an estimated £4.7 million to sign Madonna as the new face of Max Factor and signed

avant-garde artists to the service of Oil of Olay.



No wonder her agencies find her inspirational. "She's a client everyone

enjoys working with," declares Cilla Snowball, the managing director of

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, whose Mars petfood portfolio includes Whiskas

and Sheeba. "Her joie de vivre extends into everything she does. She

illuminates the process with her lively and energetic mind. She has a

passionate commitment to her brands and consumers."



So how does Francke's openness, accessibility, love of laughter and

creative credentials - she's an art lover who once won a United Nations

poetry contest -square with a P&G culture that prefers keeping things to

itself and Mars, the notoriously secretive, family owned

confectionery-to-petfoods multinational where any comment is no

comment?



Francke sees no contradiction in any of this. "My role within Mars is to

be a change agent," she says of the job which is said to have a £600,000-plus salary package attached to it. "That doesn't mean I don't

respect the principles of the company and the vast amount of knowledge

it has.



But I want to encourage people to push it further. I'm always impressed

by how open and willing the people within Mars are to do that and how

much more innovative the company is than people give it credit for."



So where's the evidence? For a start there's the swiftness with which

Mars negotiated a licence with Warner Brothers to sell Harry Potter

sweets.



This is no ordinary promotion. A new line of confectionery has been

produced based on the goodies featured in the books and movie.



Then there's the company's global pet portal, a key tool in the

understanding of the relationship between people and their animals and

the most robust of a litter of rival offerings which failed to survive

infancy. "The speed and commitment with which Mars made that happen is

very impressive," Francke asserts.



She is even moved to suggest that agencies are not recognising and

reacting to what's been going on with leviathans such as Mars and P&G.

"Too many agencies believe us to be conservative, so they don't come to

us with fresh, bold and radical ideas because they believe we won't go

for them. They are wrong."



Mars, so infamous for its formulaic advertising, wanting more bravery

from its agencies? Some mistake surely.



Not so, Francke declares. The fact is that relations between agency

networks and their multinational clients are in transition. Gone are the

days when the 30-second commercial was the universal panacea. "Across

the board, the multinationals are moving towards multimedia and

multi-faceted marketing mixes. That's a global reality."



The dilemma for giants such as Mars is how to achieve this kind of

flexibility from a rigid roster of networks - BBDO, Grey and D'Arcy.

Mars has remained immensely supportive of them, even though D'Arcy seems

to have stretched Mars' patience to snapping point in recent years.

"D'Arcy does some things for us very well," Francke says

diplomatically.



But if the agency roster is immutable, Franke believes she can use it to

her advantage, harnessing its collective power to implement some of the

creative solutions she is happy for her senior local managers to seek

out from a multitude of sources.



Ambition and a restlessness to try new things have been her driving

forces for most of her 42 years. They ensured the doctor's daughter

would not reside long in her home town of Mountain Lakes, a leafy New

Jersey enclave a 45-minute drive away from New York but too homogeneous

to hold her there indefinitely.



She studied Russian literature and intellectual history at California's

Stanford University. Defying predictions that her chosen language

specialism would be of little use, she found a job around the corner at

a small East-West publishing company. The post provided an early

exercise in brand repositioning as well as an introduction to

advertising and ended up convincing her that an international career was

her destiny.



Among the titles produced by the company was an insider's guide to

Moscow and Francke became its editor-in-chief. This was long before

Moscow had its own version of Yellow Pages and the guide was the only

comprehensive list of hotels, restaurants and other essential visitor

information.



As an aid for tourists prepared to put up with the cold comforts of

pre-glasnost Moscow, the guide was a loss-maker. By transforming it into

an indispensable companion for European businessmen trading in the

Soviet Union, Francke made it profitable. She even turned herself into a

one-woman ad agency, persuading Soviet trade organisations to take space

and crafting double-page colour spreads expounding the virtues of

Russian-built ships and helicopters.



A Fullbright grant allowed her to spend a year in Berlin, ostensibly to

study the trade relationship between East and West. At the time the city

was a heady mix of radical politics and culture. The anti-war movement

was at its zenith and Francke was beguiled by the new generation of

artists eager to express the social change in a visual form.



The discord among the pacifists soured her taste for politics but her

Berlin experience clearly refined her future thinking about the marrying

of creativity to commercial activity. Indeed, in 1997, as a senior P&G

marketer, she brought the two together for one of the most innovative

campaigns in the company's history when works by leading-edge female

artists, including Tracy Emin, were "exhibited" during ITV peaktime to

launch Oil of Olay Colour Collection Cosmetics.



After a combined MBA course in journalism and business studies at

Columbia University, she was on a plane back to Germany with a $5,000 grant and vague thoughts of becoming a foreign correspondent with,

maybe, a Pulitzer Prize to climax a glittering career. The real purpose

of her return was to carry out a project on the privatisation of

European media.



But doing the rounds of the power brokers at the likes of Bertelsmann

and Der Spiegel set her mind on a different course. "I thought these

people were so interesting that I'd rather be doing what they're doing

than writing about them." A clincher was when a $1,500 commission

to write a cover story for a McGraw-Hill magazine ended with a $100 kill fee and the realisation that an impecunious freelance writing

career wasn't the way to pay off accumulated college debts.



Job applications to Bertelsmann and P&G in Frankfurt resulted in offers

from both. She chose P&G and was put to work as a brand manager on

Punica, an orange juice which was a precursor to Sunny Delight. P&G had

bought it as part of another deal but had little idea what to do with

it. Francke found the brand had untapped potential among mothers as a

vitamin-packed thirst quencher for children.



Sales doubled and her early success laid down her marker at P&G. She was

moved to help rescue Pampers by Michael Allen, then the P&G

vice-president for paper products and beverages in Europe and a key

figure in her rise through the ranks. Allen and his senior managers

encouraged her how to distil a wealth of complex information into

commonsense for which clear recommendations could be drawn.



Francke claims it was the important foundation that emboldened her to

take intelligent risks later on. It characterises her working methods

which are also marked by a down-to-earth and practical approach. She

once showed marketers working on Pampers how out of touch the brand had

become with changing consumer demands by bringing her baby daughter into

the office and having them take turns changing her nappy.



And she is unapologetic about launching Always across Europe with

much-maligned advertising through D'Arcy featuring women talking about

everyday period problems. "Extremely obnoxious but extremely effective,"

she says.



"Remember that until that time all the advertising was about women clad

in white jeans running along beaches. That wasn't what women wanted.

They wanted to know about something that worked."



Francke is candid about her failures. But while she may laugh at

previous errors, she's serious about not repeating them. Arriving in

Britain to take over the marketing of P&G's cosmetics business, Francke

made the mistake of relaunching all 11 brands simultaneously. It was

like throwing 11 balls in the air at the same time, she recalls. The

result? A total balls-up which caused her to focus on Max Factor and Oil

of Olay, the only two brands with real potential. It was Francke's

tenacity over a year-long period which succeeded in turning Madonna into

the new face of Max Factor despite an early rebuff from the

superstar.



If swapping a diva for dogfood might seem a bit anti-climatic for most

people, Francke shows no sign of waning enthusiasm. On the contrary, her

two years at Mars seem only to have heightened her eagerness to

understand how consumers of all kinds think and act. "It's what keeps me

going and makes me enjoy what I do. Petfood is huge and has great growth

potential."



Francke's brief is to establish a more marketing-led and

consumer-focused petcare division across Europe. "The same brands

weren't always marketed in a co-ordinated fashion," she says. "There has

been an opportunity to bring that together in a way that allows for

regional differences but does permit you to create common positionings

for certain brands. Indulgent pet owners buying Sheba or Cesar have the

same fundamental beliefs about their relationships with their pets

whether they live in Paris or Warsaw."



She's built an eclectic team, multinational and culturally diverse, and

has tried to tap into the collective wealth of its experience. She uses

her agency networks in similar fashion and likes to play to their

strengths.



She doesn't demand the same things from each but does expect all of them

to do more than just talk a good game when it comes to offering

integrated solutions. "All too often agencies string together up to ten

separate units and expect the client to deal with each one," she says.

"I won't work that way. I want a core team at the heart of the agency

responsible for the brand communications and advertising. I don't want

to talk to ten people who often don't talk to each other."



So what are the network trio's respective strengths? BBDO has great

creative strengths and has embraced the integrated credo. Grey is good

at managing big brands across large numbers of markets. As for D'Arcy,

well there's some great work on cat litters coming out of Germany, she

loyally points out.



Ask her if there's a case for overhauling the way her agencies are paid

and she turns the question round. You first have to ask if there's a

case for overhauling agencies, she says. "If agencies change their role

from ad makers to marketing partners and really contribute, what a

wonderful world it would be." Her laughter suggests there's a way to

go.



INTIMATE DETAILS

Lives: St John's Wood

Car: None. "You need a car in London like a hole in the head."

Family: A daughter aged nine, a husband in retailing, a cat called Miss

Kit and a dog called Roscoe.

Relaxing: Collecting modern art, skiing, tennis, travel and shopping in

Harvey Nichols.

Recent read: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

Favourite TV: Frasier, Will and Grace, and - wait for it - Blind Date!

Favourite Ad: The "Those who can teach" commercial for the Department of

Education and Employment.

Dream job: "Doing what I do now but adding to my experience in a number

of different ways, either by writing or adding to my art collection."



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