CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/ED WILL - Roose looks to Will to provide a competitive edge. Will is ready to bring in the changes Roose so urgently needs, Jenny Watts reports

Battered Chime Communications is trying to tidy things up. In the past month, it has announced the consolidation of its media operations, the merger of Heresy with Digital Experience and now it's moving on to its advertising agencies. It's finalising a deal between HHCL & Partners and WPP's Red Cell and last week announced an overhaul of its Roose agency, a brand distinctly lacking in lustre.

The Roose restructure is part of a masterplan to rebrand and relaunch the agency next January, and will see Ed Will, the joint managing director, take the chief executive's mantle, while Angus Fear, his counterpart, settles for managing director. A touch of glamour is being lent to the line-up with the arrival of the creative director of HHCL, Jay Pond-Jones, who is swapping agencies to join as Roose's creative head.

The agency's founder and chief executive, 62-year-old Ted Roose, becomes the non-executive chairman and relinquishes day-to-day control of the agency. If this sounds vaguely familiar, that is because another such announcement was made last July when Will and Fear, then the managing partners, were promoted to create a smooth succession management.

Insiders say that Ted Roose has been out of the daily running of the agency for some time. "I always said I would step back progressively," he says, while Will adds: "Ted wanted to make sure everything was in place. He's satisfied he's leaving things in good shape."

Whether the agency is in good shape is a moot point. The shop, which Chime's chief executive Rupert Howell describes as historically "low profile", has suffered a turbulent time lately. "You wouldn't have to be a genius to see that Roose hasn't had a great year and that it has to step up a gear, he says candidly of the agency, which has recently lost a succession of its key accounts. Despite having handled Reckitt Benckiser's Finish and Calgon brands since 1995 and winning Vanish last November, Roose lost its place on Reckitt's roster after the giant consolidated its global business into J. Walter Thompson and Euro RSCG in April.

Observers are watching its grip on its Nestle business closely. Where Roose now stands in the FMCG giant's current realignment remains unclear.

Will claims that the agency's position is secure: "We have a monopoly on domestic brands. That's all rock solid. However, one source close to Nestle reckons: "Roose's days are numbered on the Nestle roster. Its presence is an anachronism."

The agency is also in the process of defending its SCA Product's Velvet toilet tissue account. On top of this comes news that it has lost Caffrey's, Reef and Worthington to The Leith Agency.

Roose had suffered a low profile before these account losses. Its remaining accounts, such as IPC Connect and TXU Europe, will have to be supplemented with some serious new business if the agency is to avoid becoming invisible. Will faces a monumental task.

But who is he? An unfamiliar name to most, the 43-year-old started his career at Benton & Bowles in 1984. He spent five years there, making his first acquaintance with Pond-Jones, before moving to GGT in 1990, where he worked on accounts including Holsten and Cadbury's, also alongside Pond-Jones. A four-year stint at Leo Burnett ended in 1997 and Will joined Roose in 1998 as a managing partner.

"Ed's a strong character, Howell says. "He's worked with Jay a lot; it's a strong combination. Indeed, Will's history with Pond-Jones seems to have aided his segue into the chief executive role over Fear. Also Fear, who is on holiday, had a key handle on Nestle from previous relationships with clients at JWT, prompting speculation that the agency's receding position on the business could be why he was not handed the top job.

"It's the luck of the dice - I had a greater profile in the job, Will says, while Ted Roose says: "They've got very complementary skills, but Ed is the more natural leader and the person people respond and look to."

The appointment of Pond-Jones is also designed to give the creative department a much-needed renaissance. Roose has never had a high-profile creative director and, while Pond-Jones' creative highlights have been sparse of late, he has been behind acclaimed work during his time at GGT, Mother and HHCL. While taking the Roose job does seem a strange career move, the plus side is he could be an agent of change. Will says: "He's not here to just be a creative director. He's got carte blanche to be a co-cultural architect with me."

Chime is hoping to reverse Rooses fortunes by bringing in sweeping changes.

There are plans for management-level appointments in non-traditional advertising, but Will is keeping the details under wraps until next year. Howell says: "It's about him and Jay looking at an agency for a new age, where pure spot advertising is not the only thing clients want to do."

Certainly something drastic will need to be done, as Will - whose brief will be to grow the agency and broaden its offering through working closely with other Chime companies - himself admits: "I think we've been a very solid, safe pair of hands. I don't think that's enough now. We need to get a greater edge - safe is not an option for us."

With these changes coming in response to client requests, Roose will have to make sure it delivers. Will is hungry for the challenge.


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