OPINION: EDITOR’S COMMENT

Tony Douglas’s resignation as chief executive of the Central Office of Information caused a stir, and not just because it left surprised new-business directors muttering about the time they’d wasted schmoozing him.

Tony Douglas’s resignation as chief executive of the Central Office

of Information caused a stir, and not just because it left surprised

new-business directors muttering about the time they’d wasted schmoozing

him.



His return to the agency world is not that big a surprise - Douglas was

previously linked to Grey and the glamour of Lambeth had begun to

pall.



Clearly he missed agency life. It was more the choice of agency that

surprised.



It’s been a long time since FCB, the largest agency in the US, was

number one in London. As far back as 1982 the agency learnt from the

front page of Campaign that it was losing its flagship British Airways

account to Saatchi & Saatchi.



Since then, successive FCB London bosses have managed its slow decline

to 26th position. But to be honest, they have all had to function with

the advertising equivalent of one arm tied behind their backs.



Unquestionably, the unsuccessful European alliance with Publicis held

FCB back. It was never clear to the outside world how it worked (it

wasn’t that clear to many within the two agencies, either).



Now Douglas must build on the first tentative steps taken through FCB’s

acquisition of the Wilkens network, and set about building a proper

European network two decades after most of its contemporaries.



Douglas likes a challenge - most famously, working with his erstwhile

partner, Graham Hinton, to build a formidable agency out of the

potentially disastrous merger of D’Arcy MacManus and Masius and Benton &

Bowles.



Then, two years ago, he took on the challenge of the COI post ahead of

what he knew would be a time of dramatic ’restructuring’. While the last

Government eased back on advertising ahead of the election, Douglas

reviewed his creative and media agency rosters. He made it clear he was

looking for greater integrated capabilities among those on the new

creative roster. In so doing he proved to be, along with his head of

advertising, Peter Buchanan, one of the more influential clients of

recent times.



His new job will provide a similarly daunting challenge. As with his

last, its success lies not entirely in his own hands. This time he

relies not on a new government, but the genuine commitment of his

Chicago parent to provide him with an acquisitions war chest. FCB can’t

afford to get it wrong again.



The demise of Yardley can’t just be blamed on its advertising. But it

can be blamed on marketing in the wider sense of the word. What it

proves is that you can never rest on your laurels.



Yardley in the late 60s wasn’t quite the ubiquitous fashion brand that -

say - Nike is today, but it was hot, via Twiggy, in the way Nike is

through Michael Jordan. Although it continued to be successful, it never

regained its cachet. The desperate Linda Evangelista campaign was too

little, too late.



As Nike - and to some extent Levi’s - have discovered, it is difficult

to be both fashionable and ubiquitous. The surest thing about being

fashionable today is that tomorrow fashion will move on.



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