Close-Up: Newsmaker - Euro RSCG prepares for Moira charm offensive

Harmonious relations are essential to Gerry Moira and Ben Langdon's plans for Euro RSCG London, John Tylee writes.

Barely had the news broken of Ben Langdon's invitation to Gerry Moira to take creative command at Euro RSCG London before the wags were asking whether the place would be rechristened Ben and Gerry's.

With tongue firmly in cheek, Moira declared it a splendid idea. After all, he quipped, didn't the philanthropic philosophies of himself and his boss-to-be have much in common with the ice-cream makers? A typically ironic observation from one of adland's wittiest commentators. Philanthropy is a word not often uttered in the same breath as Langdon. Ruthlessness and raw ambition maybe.

Next week, Moira jets in - the latest and perhaps most important element in Langdon's plans to kick-start new business and evolve the group's "power of one" integrated strategy.

Outwardly, Langdon and the former Publicis chairman and executive creative director look an unlikely combination. Langdon's relentless drive looks at odds with Moira's charm and gentle wit.

But both parties insist they are locked in mutual respect. For Langdon, Moira's arrival simply extends his record of working with highly experienced creative directors. "Gerry commands respect because he has a pedigree," he says.

Also, Langdon declares himself a reformed character. "I'm 41 and I've matured a lot. I don't shout as much as I used to - and Gerry will probably tell me to fuck off if I do."

Moira says he will accept the Euro RSCG chairman and chief executive as he finds him rather than listen to the stories. "I don't have a great respect for reputations," he says. "Not even my own."

Richard Hytner, Saatchi & Saatchi's European chief, who has worked with both men, doesn't foresee a problem. "Ben is intellectually sharp and will get Gerry's respect," he predicts. "Neither suffers fools gladly and there will be a meeting of minds."

Certainly, harmony will be vital if Euro RSCG is to play a significant part in any recovery by its Havas parent. The marriage of the then Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper with its Partners BDDH stablemate in July 2003 created a top-heavy management and a pitch record in urgent need of improvement.

Jim Heekin, once the head of McCann Erickson and now Euro RSCG's global chief, turned to his former associate Langdon as the man to oversee the merged London agency's catharsis.

Langdon set about his task in his trademark style to build a core team of like-minded managers. Out went Nigel Long, the chief executive, while Joe Boyd, the client services director, and Adam Leigh, the joint managing director, resigned without jobs to go to.

Boyd's replacement was Sheryl Wilkinson and Richard Kelly took over as the executive planning director as Malcolm White became the deputy chairman.

Both Wilkinson and Kelly joined from Leith and hads previously worked with Langdon at McCann.

After that, it was inevitable Langdon would turn his attention to the creative product. Failure to capture Homebase, WH Smith, the Irish Tourist Board and the Co-Operative Group's brand strategy assignment dismayed him.

Industry sources say his disquiet was exacerbated by the differences in pitching approach between himself and Nick Hastings, the executive creative director. Hastings is currently on leave from the agency and is not expected to return.

According to Langdon, Moira's appeal is his flexible approach to communication.

At the same time, he suggests, Moira is enough of a grown-up to command the respect of the managers of companies under the Euro RSCG umbrella.

They include Conran Design Group, the Biss Lancaster PR consultancy and the direct marketing specialist EHS Brann.

Moira is heartened by what he regards as Euro RSCG's ideal positioning for the future. "The group's proliferation of agencies is second to none," he argues. "Other groups are trying to build something similar but Ben already has all his toys in the box. Bringing all this thinking together is the way to go."

As a fiftysomething with more than 30 years of agency service under his belt, Moira seems an unlikely iconoclast. Langdon, however, marvels at his ability to come up with a communication idea before investigating how best to execute it.

Those who have worked with him say his street wisdom and outlook put those half his age to shame. "Gerry is one of the most well-informed people I've ever met," Adam Kean, the Publicis creative director, observes. "He's heard all the latest bands and seen all the new films. He always wants to know what's going on."

Some, though, suggest Moira's cleverness and mental agility can sometimes make him unreceptive to others' input. It's a charge he refutes. "Ideas are my currency," he says. "They make coming to work fun. I don't think I'm arrogant."

It is Moira's determination to remain a creative catalyst that appeals to Langdon. Old school creatives are concerned about the idea, while too many of their successors are obsessed with executions and production techniques, which often result in a victory of style over substance, he says.

Like Dylan Thomas, Moira rages against the dying of the light.

"Our business is overwhelmingly ageist," he complains. "The way we put some of our best people out to grass at 45 is just barmy."

His views are born of personal experience. It rankles that Dave Droga, the newly arrived Publicis worldwide creative director, chose to replace Moira in London with Nik Studzinski, more than 20 years Moira's junior.

So, it was with some relief that Moira left Publicis a year ago after establishing its credentials as a producer of hard-working, populist advertising for clients including Asda and Renault.

Having thrown himself into his work after the death of his wife, Mandy, at 39 from cancer in November 2001, he found the tug of his two youngest children too strong to ignore. "It was good to be taking them to school and to be there when they came home."

A few freelance jobs for friends kept his hand in. And he toyed with the idea of quitting the business completely in favour of applying some of his ideas on a broader scale, including creative counselling for clients.

But the temptation to return to the mainstream proved overwhelming.

Now, with the time-out period over, he's relishing the task ahead at Euro RSCG and will not allow false modesty to get in the way. "The challenge is to get the new business in," he says. "I think I'm quite good at that."


Age: 54

Lives: Camden Town, London

Family: Four children. Oliver 27, Dominic 24, Esme 10, Louis six

Favourite ad: Publicis' Renault Clio commercial starring Thierry Henry.

"I'm shameless"

Best ad you ever made: Pirelli "gripping stuff"

Describe yourself in three words: Old world charm

Motto: "If you can't take a joke you shouldn't have joined"

Most treasured possession: Signed photo of myself with Thierry Henry

Most admired person: Arsene Wenger