CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/LEE DALEY - Former McCann stalwart aims to kickstart Red Cell. Sir Martin Sorrell made Lee Daley an offer he couldn't refuse, John Tylee reports

When it comes to the topic of Lee Daley, the former McCann-Erickson

senior manager who has just taken charge of WPP's Red Cell network,

there are few neutrals.



The one-time account man turned strategic planner polarises opinion.



At one of his previous agencies, bosses had to remove him from certain

pieces of business because his forthright views were said to be needling

some clients too much. Others, though, couldn't get enough of his

passion and commitment.



Indeed, he's said to possess so much of it he reduced one McCann client

to tears with the emotional power of his presentation.



On some things, though, there is almost universal agreement. Daley, 38,

is exceptionally bright, nakedly ambitious, a workaholic and a deft

handler of the kind of big international clients that Red Cell seeks to

add to its roster.



"If anybody can give Red Cell the leadership it needs, it's Lee,"

Malcolm Summerfield, the former McCann chief executive who is now the

chairman of Summerfield Wilmot Keene, says.



A member of a Grimsby fishing family, Daley has Robin Wight to thank for

his entry into the business after he was hired as a WCRS graduate

trainee in 1986. A spell at Manchester's Bowden Dyble Hayes - now

BDH/TBWA - honed his experience of integrated marketing and he went on

to join DMB&B, then enjoying a renaissance under Graham Hinton and Tony

Douglas.



His reputation flourished at Cromer & Company in the early 90s. "He was

cool and unconventional but he had some interesting ideas," Gary

Stolkin, the agency's managing director, recalls.



Daley followed the agency into its merger with the McCann London office

where his new masters quickly spotted his potential.



Assigned to the agency's Van den Bergh account, he played a key role in

orchestrating its reaction to the controversial banning by the

Independent Television Commission of 1992's "I can't believe it's not

butter" campaign.



The Unilever subsidiary went on the offensive by running full-page ads

in the national press featuring stills from the commercial. "Lee had a

lot more to do with that than anybody realises," a McCann colleague at

the time says.



But it was his sojourn in New York that proved to be the defining period

of his career. He arrived in December 1994 on a Kummel scholarship,

which allows McCann executives to broaden their experience in foreign

markets.



He immediately impressed David Warden, then running McCann's New York

office and now acting chairman for the UK and Ireland. "He was not only

razor-sharp but passionate about the business and about creativity," he

says. "There was no way I was going to let him come back to the UK."



The late Peter Kim, hired from J. Walter Thompson to transform McCann's

global strategy, was Daley's mentor and gave him his introduction to

planning on the grand scale.



Thoughts of an early return to Britain were banished as he first took

charge of the $100 million L'Oreal global account before going on

to run Amster Yard. Set up as a creative boutique by the then McCann

chairman, John Dooner, the agency's raison d'etre was Coca-Cola.



Dooner's gameplan was to hold the agency in reserve and ready to offer

to McCann's giant drinks client which, at the time, was looking beyond

its core networks for creative solutions. Coke never took up the option

although Amster Yard did put on more than $130 million worth of

business in two years and produced a successful global campaign for

Martini.



Daley was called back to McCann in London by Jim Heekin, then the

network's European boss, as chief strategic officer for Europe, the

Middle East and Africa, and put in charge of Nestle's global business as

well as General Motors across Europe. But those who knew him sensed a

restlessness that McCann would not be able to contain.



Some suggest Daley's departure in July reflected the fact that the

agency was not big enough to accommodate two such giant egos as those of

Daley and Ben Langdon, then the UK chairman.



"They might get pissed together talking about Manchester United and Lee

was one of the few people whose intellect Ben respected," a former

colleague says. "But there was real rivalry between them."



Others believe that Daley was just too much of a livewire for McCann's

confining environment. "He was always difficult to place within our

structure," a McCann senior executive acknowledges.



Daley says he simply wanted a brief spell away from perpetual plane

trips to spend the summer with his wife and two small children. However,

he confesses to an irresistible urge to try something new and shrugged

aside job offers from both sides of the Atlantic, including one from Leo

Burnett, to take up Sir Martin Sorrell's offer to run Red Cell.



He approaches the job with typical enthusiasm. He's convinced that Red

Cell's offering to "challenger" brands couldn't be more apposite and

that the network is an ideal vehicle for developing his ideas about

allying advertising more closely with the entertainment industry.



"The Red Cell product hasn't been clearly defined enough for clients,"

he says. "That's my job."



If there's a downside to Daley's appointment, it's that he's never had

to manage people on such a scale before. The upside is an almost

obsessive desire to keep clients happy. "He'll kick, scream and cajole,"

an associate predicts. "But he'll also inspire."



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