Eight short months ago, when Rick Hadala left McKinsey to become
chairman and chief executive of Ammirati Puris Lintas North America,
many an advertising agency went off to do some soul searching. It was
time for some serious analysis of the appropriate stance to take in the
face of ever-encroaching management consultancies.
Yet Hadala’s sudden departure last week enhanced rather than erased the
general agency fear of consultancies. APL’s brave ploy to defend its
capability as a strategic adviser against the likes of McKinsey has
clearly not worked.
The agency says it plans to continue with its integrated strategy,
combining strategic work with more traditional advertising, but this
time it will be under the stewardship of an adman. James Allman has been
appointed chairman and chief executive of the New York office. Most
recently Allman was worldwide account director for Unilever, based in
London, but he has also been chairman of APL’s Latin America division
and its Italian office.
Allman explains: ’APL has an extremely strong strategic planning
competence in New York. We felt we should build on this strength and
hopefully get clients to pay for a service that is not necessarily
linked to an advertising campaign.’ He has every intention of continuing
the drive for strategic integration: ’The concept is not wrong, it’s
just that the person did not work out. But it’s business as usual.’
Hadala’s appointment last year was accompanied by a plethora of positive
PR from the mouths of the network’s top dogs. APL’s chairman and chief
executive, Martin Puris, said the move was an attempt to expand the
agency’s capabilities. ’The future of communications is a lot broader
than traditional advertising,’ he commented at the time.
He outlined Hadala’s task as looking broadly at brand-building concepts
for clients, starting with product strategy, then a marketing plan and
finally a communications strategy.
The question is whether Hadala’s unpopularity at APL was because he was
attempting to bring about the kind of change that would lead to a better
strategic offer, or if, as the agency makes out, he simply did not get
along with existing management.
Most likely a bit of both. A statement from Puris on Hadala’s departure
said: ’Rick’s strategic consulting skills are formidable and his efforts
to bring change to APL have been appreciated, but differences of opinion
arose that were found to be irreconcilable.’
Perhaps it’s less embarrassing to admit to irreconcilable differences
than it is to a failed attempt at improved integration.
Certainly, Hadala’s departure was swift. Steve Rabosky, who crossed
paths with him in New York for a short spell before he moved to the UK
as chief creative officer, says: ’Most people were surprised that it
He adds: ’Sometimes when the personalities clash it is better to cut it
quick than to let it linger.’