'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
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
'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
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
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.'