Jeremy Lee: Emery's Mindshare promotion may just provide it with a USP

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Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee

It's probably not his fault, but Nick Emery has one of those unfortunate faces that gives the impression of being in a constant state of sneer.

But even the normally inactive corner of his upper lip might have joined its partner in breaking into something that might - just might - have resembled a smile when he found out he'd finally been handed the worldwide chief executive job at Mindshare.

It would have been easy to miss the news, which broke late last week in a press missive signed off by New York that was surprisingly easy to read given Group M's form in obscuring key information in company bullshit. In short, Emery is replacing the clubbable Dominic Proctor, who has worked his way up another shuffle on the WPP greasy pole to run Group M globally.

It's a job that Emery deserves (but has previously denied particularly wanting), having been a key architect in the agency's creation 15 years ago, acting as the key lieutenant to Proctor. While Proctor was very much the smooth suit, a reassuring presence for the growing list of global clients, Emery was the clever strategist who created the network and ensured it had the right people in place - sometimes upsetting the apple cart in the process.

And while he may give the impression of being a bit supercilious - wrongly, in my view - when it came to getting it right, Emery displayed an unusual passion and emotional side for a company that has clearly been a big part of his life (he joined Ogilvy's media department in 1992).

Anecdotally, he is said to make it clear that he takes it very personally when anyone leaves Mindshare Worldwide. He's rather less emotional, however, when it comes to showing them the door himself. It's good, then, to see his loyalty and hard work rewarded.

So what does he inherit? It's a pretty vast empire, spanning 112 countries and more than 5,000 underlings, with billings approaching the $30 billion mark. It's also an empire that is facing up to its part in the Unilever media review - not for the faint-hearted - and has perhaps (and understandably) also lost some of its distinctiveness since it broke on to the scene in 1997.

This is no criticism of Proctor - rather a reflection of the way that media has evolved over the past decade to become obsessed with systems, optimisation and process.

Emery is an anomaly among the network chiefs in that he is a planner, rather than a trader or a suit, by background. And cleverly positioning Mindshare as a planning-led network rather than a me-too tools-led shop might give it back the distinctiveness it deserves and provide everyone there with something to smile about.

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