Jeremy Lee: What exactly is the root cause of Arena Media's brain drain?

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 01 November 2012 08:00AM

For an agency that was born on the same tide as PHD and Manning Gottlieb OMD, Arena Media - formerly known as Booth Lockett Makin - has had a slightly different route to shore.

Jeremy Lee: What exactly is the root cause of Arena Media's brain drain?

While PHD and Manning Gottlieb both sold to Omnicom relatively early in their distinguished histories, the BLM partners continued to fight the good fight as a media independent for 18 years until Havas wrote it a cheque for £20 million in 2008.

During this time, BLM proved itself to be, in some ways, smarter than many of its competitors with the creation of the pioneering digital specialist Quantum in 1998 that blazed such an early and important internet trail. Incidentally, its experiment with the launch of a creative agency, Flint, proved to be less successful.

The partnership between Steve Booth, Nick Lockett and Charlie Makin engendered great loyalty from its relatively small but nonetheless perfectly formed client list. In short, it was a nice and interesting business - so little wonder that a holding company would eventually come up with a cheque large enough to convince its founders to sell.

Now that Lockett and Makin have left the agency to spend more time with their money, the likeable Booth is the one constant - alongside Pedro Avery, its brooding and combative former head of trading-cum-managing director. For the rest of the agency, there seems to have been substantial turmoil of late.

In a recent interview filmed for Campaign's sister website Mediaweek.co.uk, Avery spoke of his pride on the agency winning a gold from the IPA for its talent management programme. Quite right, too - everyone likes winning awards and it's nice to be recognised.

But it was nonetheless unhappy timing that he chose to trumpet this achievement in the same week that Arena's chief operating officer, Pippa Glucklich, decided to up sticks and take up the managing director role at Starcom. It was even more unfortunate still when you consider that Glucklich is the fourth senior executive at the agency to depart this year, having only been in that role for a few months.

Glucklich replaced Paul van Barthold, who left in March; its chief strategy officer, Dan Clays, left at a similar time to join OMD as the managing director; and its head of planning leaves later this year. The only person who seems to have come in through the revolving door is the clever Justin Gibbons as the creative director.

So many senior departures so soon after gaining accreditation for the apparent development and retention of talent is not an encouraging sign. If you get gold for such a wholesale decimation of the management board, what do you need to do to win a Grand Prix?

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com.

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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