Andrew McGuinness thinks he is the luckiest man in adland. And well he might. He has just landed the role of chief executive of TBWA/London, an agency at the top of its game. And he is only 32.
Working as number two to Garry Lace, who last week resigned to take the top role at Grey Worldwide, McGuinness has impressed both clients and colleagues. However, little is known about the man who has taken the hot seat at TBWA. He joined the agency in February 2000 as a board account director before being promoted by Lace to managing director in June 2001.
Part of the reason McGuinness is relatively unknown in the London agency scene is that he moved to Sydney in 1998 to become group account director for M&C Saatchi. In his two years there he handled clients including British Airways, News Corporation and the New Zealand Tourist Board.
It is experience that McGuinness believes will serve him well in his new role. "In Australia I gained experience of running M&C Saatchi, the exposure there gave me control of around half of the clients of the agency," he says. "It has given me experience that not many people in London have.
It is useful to have an understanding of the relationship primary offices have with satellite offices and what that means for clients with international operations."
Paul Bainsfair, TBWA's president of North Europe, points out that, looking to the future of the agency, international experience is a benefit. "We are a network and although we have domestic or national clients, our international view is growing following client wins such as Mars, Adidas and Haagen-Dazs."
Bainsfair isn't phased by McGuinness' youth. He points out that Lace was 33 when he took over and Bainsfair says he was about the same age when he assumed the top role at Saatchi & Saatchi.
McGuinness has a different character and approach to the boisterous Lace, Bainsfair says: "He is different to Garry, but looking back at people who have run the modern TBWA - Carl Johnson, Simon Clemmow and myself - he is more like that."
Lace's energy and enthusiasm saw him devote much of his time to entertaining clients, a characteristic that left McGuinness very much in charge of the day-to-day running of the agency. They made a good pair.
While Lace made sure TBWA was on the map, McGuinness made sure it was a healthy agency - a partnership that led Lace to offer McGuinness a role at Grey, but one he felt able to turn down with the prospect of TBWA's chief executiveship.
"Andrew is an outstanding ad man and this is a natural progression as his talents have been clear to us since he joined," Bainsfair says. "He works well with clients, particularly complicated ones. His appointment represents continuity rather than change, a natural progression. In many ways the complete opposite of what Grey is doing bringing in Garry."
In fact, the decision to promote McGuinness was so logical that the restructure was announced less than a day after Lace offered his resignation. Bainsfair made the decision in conjunction with the chairman and creative director, Trevor Beattie, whom McGuinness will be working closely with alongside Neil Dawson, the executive head of planning.
This triumvirate will be supported by Matt Shepherd-Smith and Jonathan Mildenhall, former managing partners who have been promoted to joint managing directors. Insiders predict that the loud and gregarious Mildenhall will be able to pick up where Lace left off in terms of client entertainment.
"Garry Lace leaving is a blow as he was a great front man. In terms of charisma he leaves big shoes to fill," says Johnny Hornby, who worked alongside Lace as joint managing director before setting up Clemmow Hornby Inge.
"Andrew is able in a different way to Garry - in many ways they are chalk and cheese. There are a lot of charismatic people at TBWA so the blend will be there. Mildenhall and Shepherd-Smith are very talented and Beattie is one of the most charismatic creative people in London. I think TBWA is bigger than individuals now."
Bainsfair is quick to point out that nothing should be read into any perceived differences in character between Lace and McGuinness. "Although they were both different they worked together in a complementary way and it is a mistake to think Garry's relationship with clients is deeper or better than Andrew's," he says. "It is important to draw a distinction between how people are perceived and how they really are." Key to McGuinness' credentials is the role he has played in high-profile pitch wins including Hutchison 3G and Transport for London.
McGuinness doesn't believe that he will have to adopt a new style or persona to continue TBWA's successful track record. "I've got a good reputation in steering and helping clients to move their business forward and my style won't have to change dramatically with the new partnership," he says. "The day you lose sight of clients and become too introspective you lose it altogether. We don't spend a lot of time with politics and internal introspection."
While Lace takes over a struggling Grey, McGuinness takes the reins at one of London's healthiest advertising agencies. Although not immune to the recession (billings fell by 3.45 per cent in the latest Nielsen figures to £175.82 million), TBWA's creative prowess and positive profile stands it in good stead. McGuinness' key challenge will be maintaining this enviable momentum.