CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/MICHAEL BRAY - DDB's globe-trotter turns his attention to Europe

Michael Bray wants closer links between Europe and the UK, Mark Sweney says.

DDB wants to bring its European and UK operations closer together to challenge the might of Europe's more famous network brands. Last week it named Michael Bray as its new president of DDB Europe, tasked with carrying out the job.

Bray is DDB's Mr International. He has worked across three continents, speaks multiple languages and has dual US and UK citizenship. He is also a company man, although he doesn't like to be characterised as one, with 25 years' DDB experience.

Bray joined DDB in 1977 as an account supervisor to work on Mobil from Young & Rubicam's New York office, where he worked on the General Foods account.

A mixture of credentials gives him an appeal that makes him a natural fit for the continental market: he worked for two years at DDB Madrid as the international account director on Volkswagen, Polaroid and Kronenbourg.

And the fact that he has been based in Britain since 1982 means he knows the UK market and its players inside out.

Add his global experience - for the past two years he has held the role of president for Asia-Pacific and he leaves vacant the key position of president of international brands - and his CV fits perfectly with DDB's aim to integrate its European operation and build its global client base.

In fact, there doesn't appear to have been any formal search for an appropriate candidate - Bray was the obvious choice. "There was no outside search, I was asked if I wanted to take the role and I said yes," he states matter-of-factly.

He is definite in his views about taking DDB forward by formulating a more cohesive pan-European approach that will bring London's BMP operation closer together with the continental network.

"DDB wants to integrate operationally Europe and the UK more fully. I have worked on international accounts and know the people and work well with them."

He replaces the Paris-based incumbent, Herve Brossard, who has been named vice-chairman of DDB Worldwide.

Bray's appointment means the European operation will be run from the UK, which is good news for the network's London agency.

Bray plays down reading any strategic significance to this shift - claiming Brossard just happened to be based in Paris and himself in the UK - but he does admit that there are advantages to running Europe from here.

"Europe from a DDB perspective has been run out of Paris for a long time. London is a good place to run it from as a lot of international business is run from here."

Bray is also cagey when asked if the shake-up has been instigated because of any under-performance within the European operation. He says: "Europe has had a tough year, it has been difficult for everyone."

Until now the two operations have been run as separate entities with Brossard overseeing the continent and the London-based global chief strategic officer, James Best, handling the UK.

Both have traditionally reported individually to the DDB Worldwide president and chief executive, Ken Kaess, in New York.

Bray comments: "I've always felt it important that we unify the European operation. It has been fragmented because of the transition of the network. There is no problem with it, but it was viewed as a good idea that someone within the UK integrate the operation. James' role has developed into a more 'people and strategy' function."

In last week's shake-up, Best's role was enlarged to include the new function of chief people officer. He is now tasked with developing new DDB policies to be implemented globally for talent development, retention and attraction.

Under the new regime, Brossard, who retains his role as the chairman of DDB France, and Best will report to Bray on matters concerning their respective country operations, but directly to Kaess in their global roles.

The European shake-up is part of DDB's wider strategy of growing its international client base. Bray has more than seven years' experience with DDB's international clients - in 1995 he was made managing director, worldwide accounts - and has been responsible for companies including ExxonMobil and Johnson & Johnson globally.

"DDB has not been as recognised as a big multinational player such as Grey, McCann-Erickson, Ogilvy & Mather or J. Walter Thompson. Our percentage of revenue derived from big global accounts is less than them," Bray says.

"We are pretty good, but we could do better with the way we handle our multinational accounts. It is improving."

He points to DDB building its relationship with Unilever to become a regional agency, and with Nestle Purina; the agency won all non-Purina brands across Europe knocking out McCann-Erickson. And the past two years have seen the network's regional business growing with wins including Dell, Philips, Deloitte Touche and ING.

Following the management move, a key question for the London office - and, indeed, the wider European operation - is whether the top-level changes will see a trickle-down effect with a further restructure in DDB's ranks.

Bray discounts this: "We have a number of people working in a European context. I don't anticipate changes at the moment."

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