Since Matt James’ premature departure from Starcom in March, SMG’s chief executive, Easterbrook, has been on the hunt for a new managing director. He knew better than anyone else that he needed to take his time and make the right decision.
This is because Starcom has suffered a wave of resignations in the past year-and-a-half – Alastair Bannerman (James’ predecessor), Richard Hartell (former chief strategy officer), Neil Allen (until recently SMG’s press, radio and outdoor group trading director) and James have all left, taking jobs abroad or departing with the ambiguous line of "pursuing other interests". The loss of the mobile hotshot Milton Elias, meanwhile, who was poached by OMD, made it look like the Publicis agency couldn’t hang on to young talent even if its old guard felt it was time to walk.
Thank goodness for the hire of Pippa Glucklich, who is working out her notice as the chief operating officer at Arena Media, because if there was anything that was most pertinently lacking at the UK agency group, it was a respectable presence of women at the top. While SMG does have Amice Lock as the head of LiquidThread (its branded content arm), Rachel Forde as the managing director of the Procter & Gamble business and the high-profile Liz Nottingham as the group HR director, it feels that female leaders are tucked away from the frontline team. This is even more surprising given that SMG is one of only two global media networks that has a woman as its global chief executive.
Glucklich, whose appointment was signed off by the global head Laura Desmond, created and looked after Arena Media’s talent management programme to improve staff satisfaction and retention. At Starcom, she will no doubt ensure that young promise is nurtured and future Eliases are not easily lost.
For too long, SMG UK has had the reputation of being one of the least popular media groups and one that lacks imagination in its creative briefs to media owners. While the solid reputations of Jacob, Locke and Davidson keep its head above water, the arrival of Glucklich should also offer a splash of yin to go with the yang of the long servers. Glucklich is likeable – something that will do the agency brand a power of good when it will be properly represented on the industry’s social stage, where Glucklich is well-established.
It’s good to see SMG catch up with the rest of the industry, even if the industry still has far to go.