PERSPECTIVE: Radical hirings have changes to make at Y&R Inc and Burnett

What a week it's been for those minority groups that have found it hard to make it to the top in this most conservative of businesses. Women, old people, black people, mothers, grandmothers, young creatives with a British accent ... all have struggled to succeed at the highest level in advertising. But all can take heart from this week's top appointments.

With Ann Fudge (mother of two, grandmother of three, black) taking the top post at Young & Rubicam Inc, Michael Hockney proving older dogs still have a pulse by slipping into the D&AD hot seat, and Leo Burnett breaking fashion ranks to hire a couple of Brits (Jim Thornton and Paul Shearer) to run its creative department, radicalism has come to advertising.

As Mike Dolan's replacement at Y&R, Fudge probably has the biggest challenge.

The latest in WPP's line of phenomenal female chiefs (Charlotte Beers, Shelly Lazarus), Fudge has an impeccable pedigree (Harvard, General Mills, General Foods). She's never had a job in advertising and she's never been a chief executive, but heck, you don't work with Jell-O and Stove Top Stuffing for years without knowing a thing or two about marketing communications.

Her client background is a signal of Y&R's ambitions for boardroom partnerships with its clients. But Fudge needs to work some magic from her own boardroom first. As a network, Y&R's positioning is too vague and its profile has slipped post the WPP deal. The alliance with Wunderman is a persuasive offer, but needs to go much further, pulling Y&R Inc's design, brand identity, PR, direct and media offerings much more cohesively together to offer a real USP in (excuse me) media-neutral solutions. Dolan perhaps was too spent managing the transition into WPP to finally drive home such a strategy, but the opportunity, and necessity, is clear.

Like Y&R, Burnett will be looking to its new recruits to revive reputations.

A couple of years ago, Burnett was feted for a creative renaissance, which was about as short lived as Saatchi & Saatchi's now seems in danger of proving. Thornton and Shearer are interesting choices, not least because there are two of them and they have never worked together. But as Dominic Mills discusses in the feature (page 26), the need to broaden the definition of creativity into creative business solutions not just ad executions is more pressing than ever. Which makes the job of creative director an incredibly challenging one. Burnett's Bruce Haines thinks it takes two to manage it and that the pairing of Thornton and Shearer will help resolve the demands of the role.

Now that Burnett is through its merger with D'Arcy, has addressed cancerous internal politics and has got its (oh god, not again) media-neutral strategy in place, the overhaul of the creative product is overdue. But, again like Y&R, Burnett has the raw ingredients mustered. It's time to cook.

- Caroline Marshall is on maternity leave.

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