TBWA GGT Simons Palmer has pulled off a few slick moves since its
mega merger last year - the kind of manoeuvres which have led to chunky
new-business wins and repeated creative awards. Its appointment of the
executive planning director, Simon Clemmow, to the position of chief
executive last week is another.
The agency would love to present his promotion as simply filling the gap
left by the former chief executive, Carl Johnson, who moved to run the
network’s New York office in February. But there is more to it than
Paul Bainsfair, the former chairman and chief executive of TBWA, became
the agency’s group chairman in the summer and his wider responsibilities
mean he has less time to concentrate on the London agency. The ambitious
Bainsfair has been running London agencies for years - those who know
him predict he has his eye on bigger jobs within TBWA’s parent company,
Clemmow’s appointment neatly places someone in the big chair for when,
and if, Bainsfair makes the leap into a global role.
But that’s not all. It looks like Clemmow was also getting
He says: ’I’m in a position to decide for myself what I want to do, but
I’m not holding TBWA to ransom.
’I wanted a step up in my career. I’ve done planning director. I felt we
had such a good merger that I’m thinking ’what next?’.’
The new role keeps the very able Clemmow at TBWA. As one executive
summarises: ’His promotion keeps him motivated and fired up, and it also
prepares the ground for a new management structure.’
This ’new’ management structure can only be guessed at. Most informed
observers expect that some of the agency’s senior management will move
out of TBWA. Since the merger it has had a very top-heavy structure with
four managing partners - Johnny Hornby, Nick Kerr, Peter Jones and Garry
Lace - and a managing director, Neil Christie.
Clemmow is very excited about his new role: ’I want to make a mark on
advertising rather than just be a planner within advertising. It’s great
to push yourself, to create your own challenge, to land on your own moon
rather than anyone else’s,’ he says, quoting the latest PlayStation
commercial, a TBWA production, of course.
Clemmow is proud of his planning pedigree: ’I’ve been a planner from day
one.’ But he laments how few planners are running agencies and how many
of the good ones become consultants.
He joined Benton & Bowles in 1982 and moved to GGT a year later, where
he remained for five years before quitting to help set up Simons Palmer
Denton Clemmow & Johnson in July 1988. Following two mergers he finds
himself running the country’s eighth-biggest agency.
Those who know him well predict that Clemmow will bring change to TBWA
over the next year. All agree that he sees things in black and white
terms and has a knack of coming out and saying what everyone is
Johnson says: ’What Simon brings to the party is a hard line. He hates
fudging or vagueness. That’s what he’s good at. He’s highly focused and
clear on what we are trying to do. He isn’t a smooth account man, he
will say what people are thinking.’
Clemmow is not yet coming clean on what he is thinking, however. ’I’ve
got a cunning plan. I’m going to get back to the agency about it next
month,’ he says rather slyly.
In broad terms he intends to apply planning principles to the
He wants to ’plan’ the TBWA brand. ’We’re like a soft lava that is not
fully formed. The brand shows promise and a certain style of creativity,
but latent within it is the planning ability. Particularly upstream
planning, we’re not yet known for that.’
On paper Bainsfair’s role will be to look after external issues,
including new business and network liaison, while Clemmow will address
internal issues such as the agency’s structure and how it services its
He points out that TBWA’s client list makes it unique to the London
advertising scene. With about 60 clients, it is a large agency, but
unlike other similarly sized shops, it has very few large accounts on a
Although the client list makes most other agencies green with envy,
Clemmow says it makes TBWA the hardest agency in London to run.
Many of the clients hired Simons Palmer or GGT, not TBWA, so he sees the
need for a very high degree of service. He says the conventional agency
structure can’t supply this - hence his ’cunning plan’.
He also intends to bring media planning into the centre of the agency’s
strategy. ’Media planning is too important to be left to the media
It has to be brought into the team. It’s fundamental to getting the
creative element right. The natural home for that is the planning
department. The world isn’t standing still, we have to anticipate what
clients will want and media is central to that.’
Observers are unanimous that Clemmow’s is a good appointment for
Paul Simons, the chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, who worked with Clemmow
for several years, says: ’Simon has got the planning label but he’s
become an incredibly talented all-round ad man. He’s as comfortable
working with creatives on creative answers as on strategy with the board
of British Gas.
’He’s one of those people who is very clever and very keen. He’s a very
natural person to run an agency.’
Robert Senior, a former deputy managing director of TBWA and now a
partner at Fallon McElligott, says: ’He supplies the agency with
intellectual capital. He’ll bring clarity to such a big
This clarity spells change for TBWA. The dust from the merger has
settled and Clemmow’s appointment is likely to trigger a second wave of
reorganisation. Expect planning to come to the fore, and a clearer
picture of the future TBWA management to emerge.