Matt Edwards...new WCRS&Co chief executive
Matt Edwards...new WCRS&Co chief executive
A view from Ian Darby

The 'experts at change' could do with stability

"These cats are experts at change," the DJ Tim Westwood observed in Engine's recent corporate film. Yet this week's changes at the Engine-owned WCRS&Co (see page 11), which has seen its chief executive, Penny Herriman, depart after just eight months to be replaced by the Engine managing director, Matt Edwards, seem anything other than expert.

While Engine's chief executive, Debbie Klein, insists that change is good, there is a point where it cascades into turmoil. "This is like the cabinet of a failing government constantly reshuffling and firing people," one rival agency boss told Campaign, no doubt hungrily eyeing up the agency's client list. Last month, the WCRS creative directors Yan Elliott and Luke Williamson left after five years at the agency. Herriman follows her predecessor, Will Orr, who managed just 15 months in the role, as a short-term leader of WCRS.

Step forward Edwards. Or, rather, the familiar triumvirate of Edwards, Klein (a previous chief executive of WCRS who remains a "hands-on" chairman) and Leon Jaume, the executive creative director.

Insiders suggest that the chemistry between Jaume and Herriman wasn't great, and that Edwards, who has worked with Klein and Jaume for much of the past decade, has been identified as the man to help improve its new-business performance and creative reputation.

This is a tall order. WCRS has retained business such as BMW and Santander, while maintaining its grip on Sky, but it recently lost the Weetabix account and has failed to win much of significance. Creative highlights have also been few and far between. Its strategy is to hope that last year's merger with its sister digital agency Altogether will eventually bear fruit and that Jaume can inspire a team of nine senior creatives beneath him (it has abandoned its search for a creative director to replace Elliott and Williamson).

Klein's ambition is for the 130-strong agency to be "as hungry as any start-up", a tough challenge to set Edwards after a messy period of merger and management fallout. WCRS has spent the past few years lurching between peaks and troughs, and its lacklustre work and new-business record needs to rapidly change for the better if it is to avoid another low point in its history.

Half of London's ad contingent will decamp to Cannes next week and, with a record number of entries, it promises to be one of the best festivals in years. To help dazed ad people negotiate the best events and parties while keeping up to date with the news, Campaign has developed its own Campaign@Cannes app (see page 8). It's the must-have app for Cannes-goers and any iPhone will be naked without it.

Claire Beale is away.

ian.darby@haymarket.com

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