Close-Up: Jones gambles on restoring fallen FCB London

Taking on FCB's troubled London office is likely to be the 'bigger challenge' Nigel Jones claims he needs.

Nigel Jones, the new chief executive of FCB London, is joining an agency with more than its fair share of problems. This makes the question of why he is jumping ship from the safe and successful Claydon Heeley Jones Mason an interesting one.

Jones explains: "I needed a bigger challenge. It is also rare to be given the opportunity to rebuild an agency entirely and not have to strip it apart and get caught up in the politics. I also wanted to return to mainstream advertising."

Unfortunately, given its new-business record, FCB London is not an agency associated with much mainstream advertising.

Jones says he will take time to assess what he has got before restructuring, but he knows radical work is needed. "There has to be wholesale change. It's vital that London has equal status with New York and Chicago in the FCB hierarchy," he asserts.

It seems more than likely, given his experience in direct marketing, that a merger between FCB and its direct and successful stablemate, FCBi, is part of his plan.

Jones also brings with him strong and respected planning and strategic credentials from 14 years at BMP DDB, which will influence his ambitions for the agency. "I want FCB to focus more on planning and strategic areas, in particular planning measurement and finding out what advertising works," he says.

Ultimately, though, his greatest challenge is to get FCB back on the pitchlists and to put together a good reel. Andrew Melsom, the senior partner at Agency Insight and an ex-colleague from Jones' days at Claydon Heeley, says: "He is going to need powerful personalities to do that."

Jones, 44, must begin rebuilding FCB's management team after Jonathan Rigby, its managing director, and David Bain, its planning director, departed earlier this year. In addition, Al Young, its creative director, is known to have been interviewing elsewhere.

Bringing in his own team could enable Jones to shine; he must find candidates that will bring the profile that FCB has been lacking.

There is little doubt that he possesses the intellectual stamina the job will demand - Jones is a maths graduate from Oxford University and a former schoolboy chess prodigy. Indeed, Stuart Archibald, the managing partner at Archibald Ingall Stretton and an ex-colleague from BMP, describes him as "so intelligent it can be intimidating". He continues: "Those who are inspired by his interest in innovation and the intellectual debate will follow him to FCB."

It seems Jones' appointment shows FCB is serious about putting London back on the map. Steve Blamer, FCB's worldwide chief executive, explains: "I needed a real grown-up. I can't put any children in the agency and expect them to get on with it. Nigel will hit the ground running and I feel completely confident in giving him a free hand."

However, FCB's owner, Interpublic, will only give Jones so much time and funding to turn the agency around. The clock is ticking.