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
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
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
‘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
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
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.’