CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/JEAN-MICHEL GOUDARD; Bon viveur poised to prove his worth in America

Emma Hall considers the prospects for Jean-Michel Goudard as he goes West

Emma Hall considers the prospects for Jean-Michel Goudard as he goes


Jean-Michel Goudard is a passionate man. And his feelings run

particularly high when it comes to bullfighting, women and, of course,


Last week (Campaign, 1 December), he announced his departure from Euro

RSCG, where he was the international president and the ‘G’ in RSCG - the

French agency he joined in 1975.

He will start work at BBDO Worldwide in February in the role of

president, international, with responsibility for all regions except

North America.

The opportunity to set up home in pacey Manhattan was a major draw for

Goudard. ‘New York is the only town that’s big enough for him,’ Brett

Gosper, the chief executive officer of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper, says.

Goudard has already found a 49th-floor apartment overlooking Central

Park, with views which he describes as ‘breathtaking’. The move to the

Big Apple is a ‘child’s dream’ come true for Goudard. He expands:

‘Things happen there - the best people, campaigns, technological

advances and communications developments. I want to be there and live


Goudard’s job will take him all over the world. He expects to visit

London frequently to work with Andrew Robertson, the managing director

of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, and see his two daughters, Sophie, 28, and

Vanessa, 24, both of whom live in the UK.

Goudard’s reputation as a bon viveur with lashings of Gallic charm is

well earned. He speaks openly of his private ‘obsessions’ for cross-

country running, travel, soccer and ‘changing girlfriends’.

Bullfighting comes up frequently in conversation. During January, he

will have his first month off for 20 years and is planning a trip to

Andalucia to brush up on his technique with the help of a professional


He fights twice a year against smaller bulls, brandishing a cape.

Goudard often gets injured, but he is yet to make a kill. This is not

out of principle, he explains: ‘I am not good enough, I haven’t reached

that level.’

Politics is also an important motivator for him. He has long been

involved in the campaign to get the right-wing Gaullists elected in

France. Goudard says: ‘A great adventure in my life ended when Jacques

Chirac was made president on 7 May. From then, I had to find a new


Insiders speculate that Goudard was disappointed not to be given an

official role in the French Government and is escaping across the

Atlantic to lick his wounds. Certainly, it was only a month after the

election that he accepted the job with BDDO, although he agreed to stay

on at Euro RSCG until ‘things were in order’.

This meant consolidating mergers, putting the Latin American network in

place and making sure the right people were hired to run the agency

worldwide - indicated by the arrival of the American, Steve Dworin, as

vice-chairman this month.

Mark Wnek, the executive creative director of Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper,

says: ‘He [Goudard] had a specific job and time-frame. He did it and

left. He is an extraordinary man and I will miss him.’

But not everyone who has worked with Goudard holds him in such regard.

Paul Forster, the former chairman and chief executive of Euro RSCG, who

was ousted by Goudard in favour of Wnek two years ago, pays tribute to

his charisma and senior client relationships but describes him as a

volatile, inconsistent character.

Forster says: ‘He is a ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ personality, who either

ignores you or confronts you. He is not one to sit down and reason, and

is infamous for hiring and firing people quickly.’

Forster expects the US will suit Goudard’s ‘thrusting and commercially

driven nature’, but doubts whether the BDDO US management is prepared

for his mercurial character.

Allen Rosenshine, BBDO’s worldwide chief executive and Goudard’s new

boss, has no reservations about his new colleague: ‘He brings tremendous

experience, talent and knowledge.

Mercurial is not an unknown characteristic in the ad world and if it

means excitable, then good.’

Goudard admits he is excitable and driven by the allure of new

experiences, although, as he recounts his life story, it also becomes

apparent that he has a strong competitive urge.

He was born into an ‘average’ family in Montpellier, went to a Catholic

boarding school and, from there, went on to attend a top French business

college, before doing a mandatory 18 months’ national service.

Goudard was invited to join the navy as an officer because he was in the

top 50 of the 280 applicants. He casually reels off these statistics and

also recalls that he made it to the top business school by being one of

only 280 successful applicants from a pool of 3,000 hopefuls.

His competitive nature drove him to apply for a job at Procter and

Gamble after completing his national service. ‘It was the craze,’ he

admits. ‘Everyone was fighting to enter P&G in 1963 because it was the

master of the art of new marketing communications.’

He describes P&G as his ‘real university’, where he learned about the

business and, conversely, developed a yearning for a more flamboyant and

thrilling lifestyle.

‘We had the most fun and excitement when the agencies came in to P&G,’

he remembers. ‘Our attitudes and ties were less colourful. From the

outside, working in an agency looked easy. I thought it would be fun and

that I could be successful at it.’

In 1970, Goudard joined Young and Rubicam as a general manager, working

on new business and clients such as Johnson and Johnson, Playtex and


But by 1975 his entrepreneurial streak had got the better of him and he

struck out to join RSCG, bent on creating an agency from scratch.

Goudard recalls: ‘We were totally crazy and determined to build a

European and US network. If it hadn’t been for the success of the

networks, Eurocom would not have come to our rescue in 1990 when we got

into difficulty.’ The ‘difficulty’ was a major financial crisis,

precipitated by the recession, harsh interest rates, different media-

buying laws and over-stretching the agency’s resources.

Rob Morris, a founding partner of Grounds Morris, the creative

independent, was creative director at Colman RSCG at the time. He

observes: ‘It went from a bright, fresh agency, supported by the

visionary Goudard, to a struggling multinational business.

‘Goudard forgot why he started the journey, lost his creative bias and

became a ruthless political businessman, quick to seize opportunities

and turn situations to his advantage. He retained a lot of power, even

though RSCG was the lower player in the merger, which says a lot for his

political skills.’

However, Goudard never lost his allure, and suavely courted Mark Gault

in 1991 as his chief operating officer, with a brief to build

consistency with international clients such as Tambrands, P&G, and Kraft

General Foods.

Gault, now with McCann-Erickson, describes Goudard as ‘a charming man,

with everything you admire about intellectual, polished, elegant French


He says Goudard’s task was an impossible one: ‘The network was bolted

together by hysterical acquisitions, and the pool of French

multinational clients is shallow.’

But most of Goudard’s former colleagues agree he is a difficult man to

work for because of his reliance on gut reactions to make decisions and

the consequent speed at which he moves.

Gosper, however, identifies the positive aspect of these qualities:

‘His mind moves faster than most, but the good people did not find him

difficult to work with.’

For his part, Goudard boasts: ‘Not so many people know the business of

building a network and making people work together.’

But he candidly reveals he’s a little scared: ‘I am excited, but maybe

they expect too much. I love New York as a traveller, but now I have

something to prove.’


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