It could easily end up a mess; an agency famed for its creative
integrity merges with an agency formed to service Unilever. In London,
the man charged with making the merger of Lowe Howard-Spink with
Ammirati Puris Lintas a smooth-running success story is Lowe’s managing
director, Paul Hammersley.
Most believe he is capable of meeting the challenge. As Andy Jones,
marketing operations director of Vauxhall, which spends pounds 60
million a year through Lowe, says: ’Paul is part of the new generation
of advertising. No longer is it a case of style over substance. He’s
today’s adman, perhaps even tomorrow’s. I sincerely hope he does well
out of the merger. He has the potential to be one of the stars of the
Hammersley cut his advertising teeth at Saatchi & Saatchi, which he
joined as a trainee in 1985. He remained there for eight years, becoming
a group account director and then a member of the executive board.
He was lured away by the offer of the vice-president position of Lowe
Group North America, reporting directly to the network’s founder, Frank
Hammersley had lived in the US as a child and also felt that as part of
a long-term career in advertising, experience of US clients was
essential as they control the purse strings of most global
He remained in New York for four years where he became the worldwide
co-ordinator on the Coca-Cola account, before returning to the UK to
take up the managing director role at Lowe’s London office more than two
As yet Hammersley’s new job title has not been announced but insiders
say he will be ’running’ the merged agency.
His experience in the US comes across in the no-nonsense way he handles
business and the way he presents himself. At the agency he is known as
’Buzz Lightyear’, the heroic astronaut from Toy Story, partly because of
his big square jaw but also because of his clean-cut, American
David Wheldon, now chief executive of CIA Medianetwork, worked with
Hammersley at Saatchis and as a client when Wheldon was Coca-Cola’s
director of marketing.
He confirms that Hammersley’s approach is very American: ’His
straightforward business insight comes from America. Some of the English
struggle with that. What you see is what you get with Paul.’
Hammersley, 37, is professional enough to decline to be interviewed for
this piece because the final management line-up of the merged agency has
yet to be formalised. But although serious, he comes across as human
rather than boring: there are numerous tales of him larking about with
staff, leading them off the straight and narrow.
Jones laughs: ’The worse thing about Paul is the photo Campaign uses of
him. He’s much more approachable than he looks in the photo.’ Wheldon
refers to him as a ’good people guy’.
Observers agree he is a good team leader. As Hammersley’s predecessor,
Tim Lindsay, now European president of Lowe & Partners Worldwide, says:
’He’s both a leader and a manager. He’s capable of inspiring by example
and micro-managing the detail.’ Another Lowe insider says: ’He gives the
team the benefit of his ideas, but doesn’t force them to do it his
In the short term he faces the issue of peopling the merged agency and
handling the inevitable redundancies. Wheldon thinks he will do a good
job: ’He tells it like it is which is what they need to hear right now.
He understands that it doesn’t matter if people don’t like you. I
admired what he did when (Lowe) lost Smirnoff, he dealt with it quickly
and then moved on.’
Hammersley has shown early signs of fairness in handling the enlarged
staff. When he formally announced the merger to the agency last Friday
he is said to have fired an early warning to Lowe staff about treating
their new APL brethren as second-class citizens.
Jones says: ’He’s one of the most unflappable people I’ve ever come
across. In moments of high tension, he always behaves impeccably.’ The
skills will be important as the inevitable client fall-out occurs and
trusted staff move elsewhere, both muttering ’it’s no longer the agency
I bought into’.
In the longer term Hammersley faces a much tougher challenge; he will
have to draw together the two diverse cultures of APL and Lowe. Most
admit that he has already introduced a more client service-oriented
attitude within an agency that is historically famous for being bullish
with its clients.
Jones is adamant that Lowe is not a difficult agency to work with: ’Lowe
isn’t like that any more. Paul has driven it forward. The agency has
moved on. It’s much more ready to take other points of view on board,
without sacrificing its creative standards. He has spent a lot of time
getting close to our business and has got Lowe to respond to some of our
One Lowe insider says: ’Partly from his American experience and partly
from Saatchis, Paul has been successful in pushing us into the business
of servicing our clients, making us there for them.’
Lindsay confirms: ’He has instilled a greater degree of urgency and
client focus.’ Wheldon adds: ’He’s the best manager an agency could
have. He has vision and is not stuck in the old school.’
To date, Lowe has more or less managed to uphold its creative integrity
even on the larger, fast turnaround accounts such as Tesco. But the
volume of clients now being folded in from APL, including Unilever,
Burger King and Nestle, means the agency’s creative ability will be
Hammersley faces what may probably be the toughest year in his career so
far. If all goes well, however, he is well placed to be one of the
successors to the current leaders of the Lowe Lintas network.