PERSPECTIVE: Have you got what it takes to become a good chairman?

It’s amazing how much food for thought you get by reading between the lines in Campaign. ’This is an amicable parting’ means that pounds 300-an-hour lawyers at Lewis Silkin and Macfarlanes have been hard at it for weeks. ’I’m leaving advertising to pursue other business interests’ means ’I’m sick to death of advertising, I’d better start thinking of some other interests, quick’. So what can Andrew Cracknell have meant last week when, on returning to Bates UK as executive creative director, he denied that he wanted the chairman’s role as well, saying: ’I’ve found I’m no good at it.’ The answer depends which theory of Cracknell you believe. At least two are on offer.

It’s amazing how much food for thought you get by reading between

the lines in Campaign. ’This is an amicable parting’ means that pounds

300-an-hour lawyers at Lewis Silkin and Macfarlanes have been hard at it

for weeks. ’I’m leaving advertising to pursue other business interests’

means ’I’m sick to death of advertising, I’d better start thinking of

some other interests, quick’. So what can Andrew Cracknell have meant

last week when, on returning to Bates UK as executive creative director,

he denied that he wanted the chairman’s role as well, saying: ’I’ve

found I’m no good at it.’ The answer depends which theory of Cracknell

you believe. At least two are on offer.



Some are inclined to accept the theory that the comment is an attempt at

PR spin to counter accusations of overthehillness. Cracknell can’t,

after all, disguise the fact that he is a) 52, b) returning to a

troubled agency where he enjoyed his biggest career success but almost

ten years ago, and c) not associated with the kind of media neutral

approach that Bates wants to embrace. Thus, ’I’m no good at being a

chairman’ could be read as ’I’m going back to what I’m very, very good

at’.



There is another Cracknell. This is the one who spent two years as the

chairman of Ammirati Puris Lintas and all the while he never seemed to

know what being chairman meant, other than it brought top wally status

with associated car parking and luncheon expensing perks. He lasted, in

short, until he behaved himself out of a job and was sacked by the

network head, Martin Puris, who chose William Eccleshare over Cracknell

as chairman.



So - a difficult question, this, given that every chairman to some

extent writes his or her own job description - what makes a good

chairman? They should command respect from the senior agency team and

set the tone for the agency. The champion and espouser of great work,

they should be able to persuade clients to accept the agency’s advice

with as much insight as instinct. And, having left behind the bad old

days when the golf course was the setting for a client meeting and

agencies were notoriously long on service but short on business

efficiency, they should be able to discuss the bottom line too.



Trouble is, the creative spark can make many creatives too volatile for

this kind of client service (eg Cracknell) while waiting until that

creative spark dims can make some too dull (eg oh, I’d better not). On

the other hand, with account handlers trained to be the client’s poodle

(Famous example: ’What time is it?’ ’What time do you want it to be?’),

are they temperamentally unsuited to the role too?



Of course, the best people defy their roots and can do both or either

jobs brilliantly. Now why does the name Jeremy Bullmore spring to mind

here?



caroline.marshall@haynet.com



Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4



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