CAMPAIGNDIRECT: WCJ brings new skills to UK management as it starts afresh - Eleanor Trickett finds out what the worldwide boss of WCJ, Jay Bingle, plans to do after recent ’churning’

In the world of direct marketing, agencies have to change constantly and evolve to reflect the changing market, developments in media and increasing consumer literacy - life would be horribly dull otherwise. But when do a few staff changes become a new management team?

In the world of direct marketing, agencies have to change

constantly and evolve to reflect the changing market, developments in

media and increasing consumer literacy - life would be horribly dull

otherwise. But when do a few staff changes become a new management


When do a few resignations become an exodus? When does a bit of a

reshuffle become an entire revamp? And when does a new positioning

become a ’new world order’?

Those are the words used by Jay Bingle, the new chairman and chief

executive, worldwide, of Wunderman Cato Johnson, to describe the way

forward for a global group which many people believe has lost its


Bingle came on board in April when his company, Capital Consultancy and

Research, was bought by WCJ’s parent, Young &Rubicam, and took the top

WCJ job as part of the package. CCR had been working with Y&R for some

months, consulting on direct marketing and internet-based services.

This was part of a larger picture which saw Y&R - the third-largest US

agency - going public earlier this year, in an Initial Public Offering

that valued the company at around dollars 2 billion. The company has

insisted that it will not use the IPO proceeds to follow the industry

trend of buying second-tier agencies but will instead focus on emerging

technologies, including database and direct marketing - WCJ’s core


Bingle’s arrival and his plans for the future came after months of

questions about what was going on at the UK agency. Nobody could quite

put their fingers on a specific problem, but the questions and rumours

began in January when it emerged that John Shaw, the UK managing

director, and Steve Aldridge, his creative director, both resigned

within days of each other, each citing ’differences’ with the European

boss, Helmut Matthies.

Shaw had been managing director for the last six years of his nine-year

tenure. At the time of his departure, he said: ’My role was to manage

the company and if someone else is doing that job, it undermines my

role.’ The ’someone else’ was Matthies.

Other notable defections in the wake of the revamp included Peter Flett,

a board director who joined Grey Direct, the associate creative

director, Ken Muir, and the head of copy, Ed Fawcett, as well as ten


A more recent casualty, ironically, was Matthies himself. He resigned

earlier this month and is tying up a few loose ends before his departure

at the end of the year.

Rumours are inevitable, and one is that he demanded to be made the

worldwide number two or he was off. Either way, WCJ effectively had to

start again.

That it did, by bringing in Charles Webre, the creative director of WCJ

in New York, as creative partner, joining Richard Bagnall-Smith, who was

promoted to general manager from client services director, and David

Butter, the vice-president of WCJ Europe, who operated from the London


Gerry Docherty remained the managing director of the Ford business,

based in Surrey.

WCJ’s current management is happy to admit that the departure of Shaw

and Aldridge was part of this new world order. Bagnall-Smith says: ’John

and Steve left because the agency had been trundling along and needed a

good kickstart. A change of personnel was essential.’

When Bingle conducted his own assessment, he found that the senior ranks

didn’t have quite enough of the right people. ’We had the capability to

service all areas,’ he concludes, ’but not in enough depth. I’m

aggressively recruiting for new skills for this new world order. For our

individual markets to pick up new business, we need people who

understand these new areas and can adopt a more consultative


’If we take a more practical view,’ he continues, ’we need specialists

in creative, direct mail, databases, telemarketing, consulting and

everything in each market. That’s why you’re seeing the churn that’s

happening at the moment.’

Bagnall-Smith agrees. ’A while ago, we felt like the UK outpost of a US

agency, not as innovators locally. We had to not only focus on our

biggest strength - databases - but on our biggest weakness, which was


So what will the structure of the UK agency look like when Bingle has

finished with it? ’Alongside Richard, you’ll have a managing director of

database activities, one of internet services and so on.’ On top of

this, it is a badly kept secret that WCJ is looking for a chief

executive in the UK.

Bagnall-Smith is anxious to change the view that the UK agency is just a

limb of the US parent. ’We are charged with bringing in new business

like any ad agency. We can’t rely on international referrals for all of

our new clients.’

Consulting is expected to be WCJ’s largest growth area. ’The big

consulting companies, such as Andersen, are beginning to encroach on our

traditional business,’ Bingle says. Of course, his consultancy

background is an ace up WCJ’s sleeve and it seems to have paid off.

Bingle says WCJ has recently competed against major IT providers and

management consultancies in two separate pitches and won the


Dissenters, however, have expressed concern that WCJ is losing sight of

its core values: direct marketing, for a start. ’The core business of

traditional direct marketing, such as direct mail, DRTV, creative

thinking, client services etc, is still a very healthy business,’ Bingle


’But other areas are growing faster, and these are the areas for our


’The whole point of us now is ’knowledge-driven creativity’,

Bagnall-Smith says. ’Looking at customer behaviour and insight drives

the creative product.’ WCJ’s new brochure is designed to illustrate how

the agency can get into the minds of its clients’ customers by looking

for their ’idio-syncrasies and secret desires’, and not just their ’age,

status and shopping habits’.

The brochure also demonstrates the new, touchy-feely WCJ, with pictures

of Bagnall-Smith, Webre, Butter and Docherty laughing and clearly

enjoying life. ’We have a riot,’ Bagnall-Smith says. ’It’s part of our

DNA. We’re human.’


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