CLOSE-UP PERSPECTIVE: Why Clow has the talent to carry the TBWA flag forward

Bill Tragos, the fiery Greek-American T of TBWA, will not be reading this. Last time I met him he told me where to go. Apparently he had listened to my description of TBWA International at its recent conference in Los Angeles with increasing irritation.

Bill Tragos, the fiery Greek-American T of TBWA, will not be

reading this. Last time I met him he told me where to go. Apparently he

had listened to my description of TBWA International at its recent

conference in Los Angeles with increasing irritation.



I said TBWA’s reputation is that of a collection of mavericks within a

network distinguished by its youth, creative spirit and entrepreneurial

nature. I said TBWA is viewed as Omnicom’s rapidly growing third network

with some centres of creative excellence but little cohesion - a

deliberate policy perhaps for, uniquely, it has no international HQ. I

said Campaign had not been sold the concept of TBWA as a network whereas

BBDO and DDB (and Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson and Young &

Rubicam for that matter) make considerable efforts in this respect.



My conversation with Tragos was quite cordial at first. He began by

cornering me and suggesting that I’d probably heard of him. He proceeded

to tell me that Campaign publishes a load of shit-stirring nonsense

about TBWA, the US, the GGT merger, St Luke’s etc.



I confess I did not put up a very good fight. ’You asked for my view of

TBWA, that’s what you got,’ I countered feebly. Hours after the debate,

my instinct was to phone Tragos and bet him my dad could beat up his dad

any day, but then I remembered his father was a wrestler in the Greek

Olympic team. Calmer reflection suggested I should explain my point

about TBWA’s maverick positioning and why, along with revenues up 25 per

cent year on year, it is actually a great asset. Unlike Bill, I will try

to use language that is printable in a family newspaper.



Lee Clow, who is profiled in Campaign this week, is the embodiment of

what is good about TBWA. Few can match him for his work - 25 years in

the business, ten to go and he’s still as driven as ever - for his

experience, his loyalty and his sheer decency. True, TBWA Chiat/Day, of

which Clow is worldwide creative director, has only been part of TBWA

International for three years. But what’s exceptional is the fact that

Chiat/Day has been bought by Omnicom and merged into TBWA without

signalling the end of the culture that defines the agency. (For the

contrary scenario, think of Still Price Court Twivy d’Souza, whose

merger with Lintas in 1989 destroyed the reason clients were interested

in the agency in the first place.)



In fact, merging with TBWA has allowed Chiat/Day to lose its

self-inflicted financial concerns, to emerge again as a powerful

creative force and win stacks of new business from Apple, Levi’s and

Taco Bell. So the very thing that makes Tragos uncomfortable - allowing

Chiat/Day, which really means Lee Clow, to go for it in his own way - is

what he should be most proud of.



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