Editorial: Wright's Lowe strategy is good - but just the start

Tony Wright's plans to create a selected number of "centres of excellence" for Lowe Worldwide, unveiled last week, is one of the first sensible strategies to emerge as the company inches towards a more stable footing.

In truth, Lowe has always had a handful of successful, creatively led jewels that have studded the network - London, of course, being the primary example. But all have been knocked sideways over the past couple of years by significant account losses (such as Braun and HSBC) and the lack of a strong central vision behind which key management could have rallied. So last week, Wright made the first bold step toward a new vision and cut some of the bureaucratic international management structures that might otherwise have got in the way.

What should emerge from all of this is a clearer, cleaner approach, but observers were surprised that Wright has opted to keep all 107 Lowe offices open; speculation had been rife that he would opt for a micro-network approach, as an economic expedience if nothing else. Last week's reshaping was not, Wright said, a cost-cutting exercise. But surely that must come.

There remains a real sense that this is (and must be) only the beginning; Wright has also instigated a financial review designed to put the company back on a healthier economic footing. Wright is keen to point out that no agency network could claim that all its offices are profitable and that a network needs offices in those places that are important to its clients so that it can offer real consumer understanding and insight at a local level.

Yet Lowe is also launching Lowe Activation, designed to harness the expertise of its sister companies for Lowe clients. In Initiative, Lowe's sister media agency, there already exists an international network with in-depth, local understanding of consumers and markets. Perhaps the Lowe network could look more persuasively on the road to recovery if it focused on its creative firepower while tapping into Initiative's depth of local knowledge. Perhaps Wright's financial review will reach the same conclusion.

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