CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/PAUL EDWARDS - Lowes lures Henley strategist back into advertising. Will a new manager bring Lowe together to benefit its clients, asks Jeremy White

'He's a miserable Yorkshire git! And you can quote me on that,' the

president of Lowe Lintas Europe, Tim Lindsay, says, as he jokes about

hiring his old friend Paul Edwards.



Last week, Lowe Lintas persuaded Edwards, The Henley Centre chairman and

chief executive, to return to advertising and become the new group chief

executive for all of Lowe Lintas & Partners' UK interests.



'He's a singular guy - very much his own man,' Lindsay says of the

replacement for the New York-bound Paul Hammersley. 'He's immensely good

company because he is so bright.'



Richard Hytner, the chief executive of Publicis and a former colleague

of Edwards, heaps on further praise: 'He is one of the truly outstanding

talents in the industry. He's lightning quick and brilliant on his feet.

This is truly an inspired appointment. He's got such a broad perspective

now on consumers that he will have a great advantage in advising clients

beyond simply advertising. He'll complement the existing team very

well.'



Edwards' time at The Henley Centre appears to have removed any doubts as

to his personal authority and suitability for a high-powered role.



Of the time he spent with Edwards at Lintas in 1993, Delaney Lund Knox

Warren's chief executive, Mark Lund, says: 'He was fantastically bright,

but he was then very much a thinker and a strategist as opposed to a

chairman-like figure.



'The Henley Centre has presumably made him a much more rounded

businessman. I would imagine now that he is formidable.'



In addition to building Lowe UK business through new account wins and

the development of existing clients, Edwards will be responsible for

spotting acquisition opportunities to fill gaps in the group's

portfolio. He will also be directly accountable for the financial

performance of the UK group.



Edwards feels confident about bringing the group together to benefit

clients. 'It's about making the best of good bits, not about creating

something big and new,' he says. 'Every commercial problem has a best

solution and what we aim to do is have all the best people in all the

disciplines.'



However, a policy of integration could provide Edwards with considerable

teething problems. 'Strategically, how do you actually bring together a

group like that and make it into something that is more than the sum of

its parts?' one marketing consultant asks. 'Clients may say they want

integrated agencies or media-neutral solutions, but how do you actually

convince them that you have got the best offer in each of the relevant

disciplines. Lots of other agencies have found that a challenge and I

can't see that Lowe has a particular edge there.'



Another potentially tricky area will be Edwards' ability to settle into

the new role created for him, a brand spanking new position placing him

squarely between Lindsay and the chief executive Chris Thomas. Many have

suggested that this is stepping on Thomas' toes. If there is duplication

in the two roles, there could be trouble ahead.



'I am absolutely not trying to take Chris' job,' Edwards insists. 'This

is not a second-chief executive for the agency. If you want something to

happen, you have to make it somebody's job. At Lowe we want all the

commercial parts to work together and if it isn't somebody's job to make

that happen, it won't. The individual disciplines will rightly pursue

business down their own channels.'



'Chris will continue to run the agency,' he adds. 'Where we will work

together is when the agency is making a contribution to a pitch or to

extending work with a client. I'll be working with Chris toward client

work - not the London agency.'



Hytner sees no clashes ahead either: 'He obviously brings something

unique. If they had hired somebody from the conventional (advertising)

world then Chris might have some questions. I think it will work

tremendously well.'



But there is no doubting that the appointment will change Thomas' role

slightly. With the agency such a significant part of Edwards' group, the

new man's involvement cannot be anything but considerable.



However, Edwards does want to cause waves with his different business

style. 'You look at the problem from a problem's point of view, not from

the solution media's point of view,' he says. 'You don't look at a

problem and think 'Ah, direct marketing!', you think what's the best

answer to this commercial problem. That's classic Henley thinking and

what I've been practising for the past five years.'



Won't this jar with the existing way of doing things?



'I kind of hope it will. I hope it will add to it. If I am not adding

anything then there is no point in having an extra player.'



Despite these accolades from former colleagues, the pressure will be on

Edwards to perform.



'They'll be a high expectation that he can deliver more business and

that he can glue the group together,' Hytner predicts. 'If they support

him, it'll happen.'



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