For the past nine years, Brett Gosper has been part of the most settled management team in British advertising. The globetrotting Australian's life was beginning to reek of stability.
The summer of 2003 has put paid to that. For now, not only is Gosper's long-running partnership with Mark Wnek coming to an end, but he is also about to leave the country and say goodbye to the agency he helped resurrect.
The Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper co-chairman will next month take up residency in the US as the executive vice-president and general manager of McCann-Erickson's flagship New York office. He replaces Eric Keshin, who was promoted to regional director for North America following the early death of his predecessor, Mark Gault.
The move marks a sudden change of plan for Gosper. Earlier this summer, it was revealed that he would be joining Euro RSCG's worldwide chief executive and chairman, Bob Schmetterer, in New York. No specific job title was confirmed, although the term "global role" was used.
Those who know Gosper well and are familiar with his hands-on style of management aren't surprised that he's abandoned these plans. However, Gosper is adamant that it was more a question of "why McCann-Erickson?" than "why not Euro RSCG?"
"New York was a really attractive proposition to me," he explains. " I've never worked there before. But the Euro RSCG role would have been a global one, and I just thought that if I was going to work in New York, it would be nice to spend most of my time there."
Gosper's appointment coincides with that of Rupert Howell, who is to become the new president of McCann's Europe, Middle East and Africa regions and the new chairman of its UK and Ireland Group.
Howell will work closely with the network's global chief executive and chairman, John Dooner. So, with a Brit running Europe and an Aussie running the flagship office, are we witnessing the birth of a new, inclusive approach from a network that has a reputation for filling its top positions with New Yorkers?
"For all the right reasons, Rupert is a bold hiring, and so am I," Gosper says. "There was a gap at the New York level and I admit that I didn't think that they'd fill the role with someone who wasn't a New Yorker. I'm not saying that I'm a risk but, for McCann, I am a surprising appointment."
Gosper will be at the heart of the McCann-Erickson machine. A high turnaround of senior staff and the fall-out from the accountancy scandal have destabilised the network and unsettled staff. Does Gosper have any concerns about joining?
"If I thought (the scandal) was an issue, I wouldn't have taken the job," he says. "If you asked me six months ago, things might have been different. But the New York office is in good shape, and that will increasingly come out, and I think McCann has put its troubles behind it. In 12 months, I don't think anybody will be talking about it."
Gosper began his advertising career in 1981 with Ogilvy & Mather in Melbourne. At the time, he was a member of the Australian national Rugby squad, and it was this passion that first took him to France. Having been invited to play rugby with Le Racing, he transferred to O&M Paris in 1983.
This was followed by a spell at BDDP (now TBWA Paris), during which Gosper landed the lucrative BMW account. A year in Frankfurt setting up BDDP Germany was his reward. Gosper then joined Mark Wnek in the Euro RSCG hot seat in 1994.
He now joins a network famous for its diligent client servicing. J. Walter Thompson's client services director, Enda McCarthy, worked under Gosper at Euro RSCG and is adamant that his former boss is up to the task.
"Brett's worked in Australia, France, Germany and the UK and he's been a success everywhere he's been," he explains. "Part of the reason for this is his ability to find a way of connecting with people. He knows how to gets under the skin of their issues."
Unlike its UK counterpart, McCann's New York office has a reasonable creative reputation. Recent work, such as the Priceless campaign for Mastercard, has left McCann's US clients regularly expecting more than just eager account handling from their advertising agency.
Fortunately, this seems to suits Gosper. Thanks to his time with Wnek, he knows how to get the best out of creative people.
"Creatives like working with Brett because he thinks in terms of creative solutions," McCarthy explains. "He has the rare ability to be equally accessible to clients and creative departments."
With an Anglo-Danish wife and one of his children attending school in France, Gosper has laid down enough roots since leaving Australia to prevent him living there again.
His latest move sees him, for the first time, working in a country that doesn't share his love for Rugby Union. Perhaps even more tragically, it may also lead to his name being removed from above the door of Euro RSCG's UK agency.
"I would understand if they took my name down and I would understand if they didn't," he admits. "But it'd be good if they kept it up for a bit so I could tell the guys in New York I've got my name above the door of a London agency."
- Feature, p18.