PERSPECTIVE: Sorrell pins hopes on return of WPP’s famous daughter

Why has Charlotte Beers chosen to come out of semi-retirement merely to swap one famous advertising dynasty for another? Rewrite: why has Charlotte Beers been drafted back to WPP’s front line as the chair of J. Walter Thompson Worldwide when, back in 1996, she was reportedly ’encouraged’ to vacate the chief executive’s chair at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide?

Why has Charlotte Beers chosen to come out of semi-retirement

merely to swap one famous advertising dynasty for another? Rewrite: why

has Charlotte Beers been drafted back to WPP’s front line as the chair

of J. Walter Thompson Worldwide when, back in 1996, she was reportedly

’encouraged’ to vacate the chief executive’s chair at Ogilvy & Mather

Worldwide?



It’s a curious move, certainly, and the answer doubtless lies somewhere

in the small print of her WPP contract. While Beers is still on Martin

Sorrell’s books, the chairman of WPP will use her talents where they are

needed. If that means drafting in Beers in order to support Chris Jones,

the JWT Worldwide chief executive who succeeded Burt Manning in 1997, so

be it.



Famous for her power Rolodex, dollars 2 million salary and social life

packed with the rich and famous, Beers was frequently dubbed ’the most

powerful woman in advertising’ during her tenure as chief executive of

O&M Worldwide. Where ordinary advertising folk have lives, Beers - part

chic New Yorker, part manipulative Belle of Texan roots - has a

lifestyle with a capital ’L’.



For his part, Jones is a hugely able account man who took over Manning’s

mantle at the tender (well, tender for such a big job anyway) age of 41

in 1996. But despite his reputation for zeroing in on what individual

clients want and need - honed over a 15-year career at the agency -

Jones faces huge problems in the US.



First, in September last year, JWT San Francisco lost the dollars 150

million Sprint account to McCann-Erickson Worldwide. It was a painful

loss, costing 80 people their jobs.



In the same month came the news that the PC giant, Dell, was firing JWT

from its dollars 100 million account just three months after the

agency’s first campaign launched (slogan: ’Be direct’ - ouch) and

appointing BBDO instead. Now, both sides are suing each other over their

aborted relationship. The two blows, combined with a chill wind of

disapproval from Wall Street and a less than impressive US new-business

record, sent Sorrell looking for someone to support Jones.



So does Beers - who is described as ’sexy’, ’a visionary’, ’a terrific

mind’, ’a massive ego’, ’petite with great legs’ and ’a bit like Eartha

Kitt’ - possess the ’get out of jail free’ card that will place JWT, and

by implication WPP, above all criticism?



While at O&M, she was the visionary chief executive - more comfortable

with the big picture and senior client handling than bottom-line detail.

Whether JWT in the US needs such a risk-taker, or some firmer,

grass-roots straightening out, is a moot point. But for now, she will

certainly buy WPP some credibility with the Wall Street heavies.



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