Close-Up: Live issue - What should David Patton's brief be?

David Patton is joining Grey. What does the outgoing Sony marketer need to do, Noel Bussey asks.

Last week, Grey confirmed it had made the bold move of signing up a client with no agency experience as its chief executive.

The appointment of Sony's David Patton, the man who bought Fallon's "balls" and "paint", understandably caused a ripple throughout adland.

Here is a client with amazing creative credentials heading off to lead an agency not famed for its innovation or ability to get on to the big pitchlists. Neither is there a history of producing heart-stopping creative work.

However, the overriding feeling is that Patton is walking into an agency that, when judged in the context of its network, has a lot of plus points; building on these is where his attention must focus.

Andrew McGuinness, the Beattie McGuinness Bungay founding partner, points out: "There has been a recent energy around Grey that wasn't there five years ago. Dave Alberts (the executive creative director) has done a successful, if understated, job."

The general consensus is that Patton needs to build the agency's London brand, albeit working within the context of the network. Most stress he should avoid trying to turn it into something it isn't.

Michael Wall, who as the international president of Fallon Worldwide has worked with Patton for many years, says: "He's not coming in to do a Sony 'balls'; he has to engineer a group of companies, which have not been pronounced as a brand or seen as 'sexy', into a recognisable entity with a clear proposition within its network. He knows brands - and Grey needs to reassess its brand in London. But it's not a creative hot-shop, and shouldn't act as one."

Obviously, Patton has a lot to learn in a very small amount of time. Handling 40 brands will be his most difficult challenge.

To date, many of Grey's clients have demonstrated a disdain for creative risk-taking. Much of the agency's output is for brands such as GlaxoSmithKline's Wind-eze and Procter & Gamble's Febreze. Patton's record at Sony is pretty irrelevant to such advertisers.

His other big task will be to find a working relationship with the account barons, who have been the undoing of CEOs in the past.

McGuinness says: "You either fight with the barons, or you let them do what they do best: handle your global accounts so you can concentrate on the domestic business."

As Patton strives to climb the steep learning curve ahead of him, it will be important that he has a strong, experienced team behind him. Indeed, Carolyn Carter, Grey EMEA's chief, says of the existing team: "David will have to make evaluations when he joins."

Martin Jones, the director of advertising at the AAR, adds: "He'll need to get Grey's talented senior management working as a team, which they haven't done to their full potential so far."

Carter is adamant that Patton should concentrate on new business, suggesting this will be forthcoming if he "excites and inspires the agency and clients". She says: "You have to give chief executives the power to make positive changes; we didn't hire him to duplicate what has gone before."

The new chief executive of DDB London, Stephen Woodford, says: "The hardest thing will be sorting out what his own agenda will be. He needs to digest what people are saying and make his own view."

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FALLON PRESIDENT - Michael Wall, founding partner and president, international, Fallon

"The agency is still strong and it has a great client list that it handles well, but it hasn't been pronounced as a brand - it will be interesting to see how Patton takes Grey forward.

"He'll need to learn a lot of new skills, and he'll have to do this while keeping an eye on the agency's profile; its new-business record; its client handling and its public relations.

"Patton needs to be involved in every aspect of this, but also have his own ideas on how he's going to handle it all."

CHIEF EXECUTIVE - Stephen Woodford, chief executive, DDB London

"Patton will know something of Grey's business and the senior management's views on the challenges it faces. But he'll also need to develop his own brief.

"He'll need to determine what he wants Grey to be in the context of its market position, talent base, clients and network. He needs to make the positives count and emphasise what differentiates Grey from the other big network agencies and its WPP sisters.

"He needs to focus on the clients that require network solutions and define what makes Grey.

"Finally, I think he should emphasise to clients and staff that he is in it for the long term."

INTERMEDIARY - Martin Jones, director of advertising, AAR

"It's a simple challenge. Patton has to make Grey into a London agency that happens to be part of a network.

"There is an element of needing to give people pride in being what they are - there's nothing wrong with working for Procter & Gamble.

"He'll be making a big mistake if he tries to reinvent the agency into something it is not.

"However, he does need to give Grey an identity - it has a vanilla feel, and good agencies need to polarise opinion."

REGIONAL HEAD - Carolyn Carter, chief executive and president EMEA, Grey

"Patton's brief is to inspire the agency and clients while driving agency growth, both organic and through new business.

"As a former client, he will also raise the game of account management. He will be briefed with making understanding clients a Grey hallmark.

"He needs to ensure we get value out of existing clients - that is job one. The client is the most valuable property that an agency has.

"Then, by digging into the client business, he can understand the talent of the people within the agency, which will in turn lead to better leadership. That is what clients are looking for these days."