Having disposed of how many times you have to visit the Ivy before
earning a table in less than six weeks, and whether Charlotte Street
will ever be great again, a recent conversation over lunch with an
eminent agency person turned with a defiant lack of logic to David
Wheldon. How, he enquired, was David doing? Although I’ve met Wheldon
several times since he became the president of BBDO Europe in March, I
had to pause for thought. ’I don’t know,’ I said eventually. Wheldon’s
an impressive operator and it seemed unfair to gossip about the obvious
difficulties faced by the former worldwide director of advertising for
Coca-Cola since he joined BBDO.
Then, last Friday, came the terse fax from BBDO New York. Wheldon
’resigns’ from BBDO ( it should have read ’is invited to resign’). His
job will be filled by Jean-Michel Goudard, president of BBDO Worldwide,
who assumes the additional title of chairman of BBDO Europe.
There is one obvious conclusion: president of BBDO Europe is a non-job
with zero influence. This is because BBDO has a number of eminent, but
mostly minority-owned, creative agencies in its portfolio - including
Tiempo in Spain, Team in Germany, FHV in Holland and Abbott Mead Vickers
in London. Like its sister Omnicom networks, it has cultivated an
empowered, decentralised structure with agencies happy to report into
New York on most issues but happier to be left alone to work their
entrepreneurial magic. Indeed, the fact that 58-year-old Goudard is to
be chairman of Europe suggests a realisation that, if anyone is to
influence such agencies, it has to be someone who wields ultimate
Some will suggest Wheldon used the BBDO job as his ticket back to London
agency life. For after he skilfully implemented Coca-Cola’s dramatic
overhaul of its agency roster, he also fell rapidly out of love with
Sergio Zyman, Coca-Cola’s then chief marketing officer.
There are several powerful desks that Wheldon’s CV could now cross.
First, that of Kevin Roberts, Saatchi & Saatchi’s worldwide chief
Having sidelined Alan Bishop into a new-business role, Roberts needs a
chairman for Charlotte Street and Wheldon already has a reputation
there; he joined as a trainee in 1983 and left five years later as a
group account director.
Second, that of Shelly Lazarus, the worldwide chairman and chief
executive of Ogilvy & Mather, who wants a chairman for O&M London. Mike
Walsh currently holds the title, but he also runs Europe, the Middle
East and Africa. I’ll bet that such a vast portfolio of agencies carries
with it a high risk of the pernicious advertising management disease
known as Marmite-itis. (That’s spreading yourself too thinly, not a
yeast infection.) Could Canary Wharf therefore be Wheldon’s next home?