When it comes to Toby Hoare, the newly appointed executive chairman at JWT, there seem to be two questions being raised in the industry. Can he repeat his success at Bates and Young & Rubicam by turning around JWT's recent slump? And, is he too much of an old-guard adman for an agency that is attempting to reinvent itself after the introduction of its creative manifesto earlier this year?
Rumours circling the agency say some of the long-time staff are excited about the appointment because it is safe and secure and may lead to a resurrection of the good old J. Walter Thompson days. However, some of the newer recruits, at all levels of the business, appear deeply concerned about the appointment, for the same reasons.
"It depends what JWT wants to be. When you've had a couple of big knocks, as it has recently, there is a tendency to revert to type. I know that some people bought into this creative manifesto and will feel short-changed if there is a reversal," one industry expert says.
However, this claim is refuted as "total nonsense" by Hoare, who stresses that he is impressed with where the agency has been going, and will maintain this course.
"I'm committed to the creative agenda and the manifesto set up by Craig (Davis, the global creative director) and Nick (Bell, the agency's creative director). However, this said, people need to realise that it's not about old JWT versus new JWT - that just doesn't exist. To pretend JWT doesn't have a heritage would be a massive blunder on my part."
Despite the appointment coming as a "bit of a surprise" to him, he has already spoken to his troops as the chairman and, in his straightforward way, explained that some big decisions have to be made - his priority being his management team.
When it comes to putting this together, he knows what he wants. Even though he is a great believer in working with the existing talent and building confidence from within instead of panicking and bring in a raft of new talent from outside the agency, if something isn't working, he will change things without much remorse.
"You have to be honest to get respect as a manager, and it has to be earned," he says. "I will be appointing a new chief executive and that person will have to share my vision, creatively and in strategy, as well as running the agency day-to-day. I also need a creative director who I can work with and who shares my vision. That is paramount to the success of this agency."
These words will be most closely read by two of JWT's management team: Mark Cadman, the agency's managing director, who could theoretically make the step up to chief executive, and Bell, JWT's creative director. Hoare is clearly signalling that they need to prove themselves to him if they want to form JWT's next managment team.
Making sure the new chief executive and creative director can work together will be important, as it has been widely rumoured that Bell did not get on with the outgoing chief executive, Simon Bolton. These thoughts are not far from Hoare's mind.
"It has been well documented that there were some problems between Simon and Nick, but I have to get beyond that and move forward for the sake of JWT. The creative director is the most important partner you can have when running an agency."
Hoare is probably most famous for his work at Y&R, where he turned the ailing agency around but was not handed the chairmanship of the company (when many thought he would be) after it was merged with Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe.
He then repeated this success when he became the group chief executive of Bates, which was also in dire straits, four months later. However, he is quick to point out that he has not been given his latest role because he has a reputation for saving agencies.
"There is a lot said about the jobs I did with Y&R and Bates," he says.
"But those agencies were in a lot of trouble. This isn't the case with JWT. It's not in trouble, it's just experiencing a bit of clear-air turbulence. It just needs a bit of basic care and attention."
Despite this optimism, the agency has had an awful end to 2005, with total business losses, including accounts such as Persil and Axa, amounting to around £60 million and the removal of Bolton as its chief executive.
Many at JWT are going to need reassurance that the company is still functioning and will recover in the new year.
Stevie Spring, the chief executive of Clear Channel, who was a managing partner of Y&R when Hoare was in charge, says he is exactly the man for this sort of task. "If you put him in front of 300 staff, he will soothe and reassure them. He's fantastic at the rallying cry and getting people to believe in him. People at JWT will end up wanting to go through hell and high water for him, it's the sort of person he is."
However, there is a perception in the industry that Hoare (who is on the board of governors at his old school, which just happens to be Harrow) is an old-fashioned adman whose main strength is building strong relationships with senior clients over a long lunch.
This may cause him to struggle when working with the younger account managers and creatives within the agency and the new breed of marketing managers in the country's biggest companies.
"He's much better than people give him credit for and it is easy to underestimate him. This is something he uses to his advantage," Spring says.
Peter Stringham, the group general marketing manager at HSBC, who appointed Hoare and TeamHSBC to his account, agrees with this view and goes on to say: "People make the mistake of thinking that because he's old- school he's not relevant. That's absolutely not true. He's traditional in his lifestyle and his habits but that doesn't mean he won't roll up his sleeves and get the work done.
"He did an extraordinary job on the HSBC pitch. His skill and experience meant he could marshal separate WPP entities to run the business under the name TeamHSBC. Before Toby got involved, they didn't have anything like that."
Hoare certainly has the pedigree to run an agency the size of JWT. His biggest immediate decision will be the choice of chief executive. "I'm not really thinking about things beyond the chief executive, for the time being. I'm still running the HSBC account as well," he says.
JWT is the country's second-biggest agency and has an enviable network pedigree. Hoare must install a management team that will live up to that status.
THE LOWDOWN Age: 45 Lives: Notting Hill Family: Wife, children Oscar (17), Giles (15), Camilla (11) Favourite ad: Pirelli "Power is nothing without control" Describe yourself in three words: I'd rather not! What's your greatest extravagance? My children Which agency do you most admire? Bartle Bogle Hegarty.