Close-Up: Newsmaker - Bainsfair isn't content to limit himself to European borders

TBWA's European chief has a desire to lead the global operation.

You'd expect a man of Paul Bainsfair's newly elevated status to send some smart-suited PA to greet guests. When Bainsfair himself - TBWA's newly appointed European president - arrives instead, it's a testament to his reputation for being "fantastically good with people".

The interview starts as we get into the lift and continues seamlessly into his office glass-fronted and leather sofa-ed office. It reflects Bainsfair's whole demeanour, one that Paul Hammersley, the chief executive of DDB London, describes as "effortlessly confident".

This confidence is backed by a sharp mind and polished management abilities that were in evidence during the various possible management crises he has faced at the London agency.

His handling of the departure of the chief executive, Garry Lace, with the overnight promotion of Andrew McGuinness is an example. Lace resigned on a Monday. Campaign had a press release trumpeting the promotions of McGuinness, Matt Shepherd-Smith and Jonathan Mildenhall on the Tuesday morning.

Starting out at J. Walter Thompson, Bainsfair, 51, joined Saatchi & Saatchi in 1975, rising to become the managing director 12 years later. In 1990, he launched Bainsfair Sharkey Trott and several mergers and acquisitions later, found himself at TBWA where, since 2001, he has held the position of president for Northern Europe.

Three years on, leaving his European counterparts, Nick Baum, the president for Southern Europe, and Perry Valkenburg, the president for Central and Eastern Europe, behind, he has landed the top European job and will represent Europe on the newly formed TBWA executive board. He, along with a handful of other regional and senior department heads, will report directly to Jean-Marie Dru, the president and chief executive of TBWA\Worldwide.

As the chairman of the board of TBWA\Europe, Bainsfair was first in line for this promotion but it begs the question of why he wasn't handed the job three years ago.

"The network wasn't in a position to create a head of Europe role back then and it's only through the job that has been done over the past three years that this has been made possible," Bainsfair explains.

The job in Europe, in other words, was too big for one person. For example, Germany's various TBWA-affiliated agencies were such separate entities three years ago that they were pitching against each other.

"We've come a long way and, now the European network is in good shape, it's time to put somebody at the helm to represent Europe both externally and internally," Bainsfair says.

He is confident that the new set- up will be an improvement with the streamlined executive board being able to make quicker decisions and the appointment of one European head making the region easier to manage and represent.

It's not all going to be plain sailing though and Colin Gottlieb, the head of OMD Europe, agrees that there will be challenges ahead. "Keeping up with Jean-Marie's ambitions and visions is going to be Bainsfair's first challenge," he says. But he also believes it to be a "positive challenge" in that Bainsfair wouldn't be there if Dru didn't respect him.

Bainsfair already has his sights set on various plans to grow and strengthen the business in Europe. Notably, he wants to roll out TBWA's non-advertising services such as TBWA\Connections, its joint media venture with Manning Gottlieb OMD.

He also has high hopes for its brand content business, Stream, which is currently only active in the UK, the Netherlands and France.

In terms of area strategy, Bainsfair has his eyes on the emerging markets of eastern Germany and Russia, which he believes have "enormous potential".

He also points out that he will be making sure that the UK and French markets continue to prosper but herein may lie one of his biggest challenges.

Those familiar with the network say he will have to work at relations with the French agencies. A "quintessential Englishman", Bainsfair may have problems connecting with so many diverse areas.

Bainsfair himself doesn't seem at all fazed by the enormity of his new role and, in fact, is already plotting his next move. "I'm as ambitious as I have always been within the advertising business. I see this job as a stepping stone and not as my final destination," he admits.

The only way up is Dru's job and he is a strong candidate. Peter Mead, the vice-president of Omnicom, says: "There are two or three on the new executive board with a chance and Paul is up there in the running." The Clemmow Horby Inge managing partner, Johnny Hornby, who worked for Bainsfair at TBWA, boldly states that Bainsfair is "far and above the best person to do the job".

However, the most likely way forward for Bainsfair is if Dru retires, which at 57 he is unlikely to do any time soon. Tom Carroll, the head of the Americas and also on the new board, is not to be dismissed, but it has been questioned whether he harbours the same ambitions as Bainsfair apparently does.

Such stumbling blocks don't appear insurmountable and nor does the suggestion that Bainsfair may not be willing to leave the UK. As it is, he already spends a fair amount of time away from home. It is, then, plausible that somewhere down the line Bainsfair will be greeting a journalist in the lobby of the New York offices.


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