OPINION: Real power now rests in the new Euro managers

The news that David Wheldon was leaving Coca-Cola to become president of BBDO Europe sent a ripple round the London community. Without being mean to either his former agency or Wheldon himself, it was a buzz not commensurate with his previous job in London as managing director of Lowe Howard-Spink. It was being Coca-Cola’s global head of advertising which gave him added lustre.

The news that David Wheldon was leaving Coca-Cola to become president

of BBDO Europe sent a ripple round the London community. Without being

mean to either his former agency or Wheldon himself, it was a buzz not

commensurate with his previous job in London as managing director of

Lowe Howard-Spink. It was being Coca-Cola’s global head of advertising

which gave him added lustre.



Wheldon’s move would, until recently, have been dismissed as bizarre.

The Euro boss role used to be an elephant’s graveyard where bruised egos

totted up their personal pension contributions. It meant planes, hotel

rooms, being fobbed off by the local agency bosses who resented the

imposition of another management layer.



However, the quality of manager filling such roles has soared: Mike

Walsh at Ogilvy and Mather, Miles Colebrook at J. Walter Thompson, Jean

de Yturbe at Bates, Terry Rosenquist at Ammirati Puris Lintas, and

Wheldon, are all top-drawer bosses, and there are others. If, like

Wheldon, they now have bottom-line responsibilities, they can no longer

be fobbed off. Plus, real power now rests in their relationships with

top regional clients - in Wheldon’s case this will mean Apple, Henkel

and Mars as well as Pepsi-Cola. Where does that leave quality London

management such as Dominic Proctor or Andrew Robertson? Actually, those

two are both in strong positions, but what about their successors?



London agencies still exhibit the same ambivalence towards Europe as our

Government. Many of those who are part of a network seem uncertain as to

how proud of that network they should be. Of course, no-one publicly

criticises the pan-Euro organisation, but it is shown in more subtle

ways - such as disassociating London from pan-Euro work, even if it airs

in the UK. When that situation changes, then we’ll really know these

able men are starting to make a big difference.



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