CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; Langdon must set McCanns at ease with itself initially

McCann-Erickson is the Arsenal of London advertising. No-one cares to like it, despite its success. Somehow, more than the other US multi- nationals, it has become the bogeyman representative of ‘not invented here’. According to the malign whispering campaign, McCanns is allegedly always doing it for less money and with more pragmatism. Its creative work is frequently dismissed, and its account handling regarded as next to supine.

McCann-Erickson is the Arsenal of London advertising. No-one cares to

like it, despite its success. Somehow, more than the other US multi-

nationals, it has become the bogeyman representative of ‘not invented

here’. According to the malign whispering campaign, McCanns is allegedly

always doing it for less money and with more pragmatism. Its creative

work is frequently dismissed, and its account handling regarded as next

to supine.



The Gold Blend campaign is anathema to the London creative community,

despite (or because of?) its unquestionable success. The same goes for

work such as ‘I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter’ and Jacob’s Club. When

McCanns wins such sought-after clients as Panasonic, Sega and Bacardi,

there are few of the comradely congratulations from rivals that usually

mark the London business. Rather, when these opportunities fizzle out -

as they appear to do with worrying frequency - there is gloating. It’s

hard to imagine that any other agency’s public humiliation by a client

as important as Coca-Cola would elicit so little sympathy.



Some of this is self-inflicted. The agency has foisted some monster

turkeys on us: the Mercury ‘whizz’ ad, Bacardi ‘interactive’, Cornetto

(RIP ‘Just one...’), Gino Ginelli, Viennetta, Studioline and the rest of

its L’Oreal repertoire, years of awful Coca-Cola ads and innumerable

commercials for big advertisers that torture daytime viewers. It is as

capable as anyone of cynically producing the odd thing for the showreel:

AT&T, Durex, Guide Dogs for the Blind - but these, too, appear to miss

the mark. Let’s be honest, McCanns (be it the London office or the

network) is guilty of some of the worst Euro-pap around.



As if it were not bad enough to be run by an outsider (that is, a Brit

who’s spent 18 years in the US), David Warden, McCanns has re-hired Mr

Popular himself, Ben Langdon. Worse, Langdon leaves a job half-done at

dear old Collett Dickenson Pearce.



It’s a bit like King Lear daring the storm to do its worst, but if

anyone can look after himself the energetic Langdon can. More personable

than he lets himself appear in public, he will benefit from the huge

support structure within McCanns and the Interpublic Group. He will also

have learned much from his time at CDP. Ruthless as he appeared on

occasion there, he finally stopped the rot and woke the place up to the

business realities of the 90s. He also persuaded the agency to accept

what it is and embrace its Dentsu parent. This ability could prove

crucial. McCanns’ public face is chippy; fretting about what everyone

else is doing, anxious it is not recognised as a hotshop and unhealthily

obsessed with Howell Henry Chaldecott Lury. If Langdon can help the

agency be more comfortable with itself, then he will have made a good

start.



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